It is most definitely a Singaporean thing to call our car park attendants and traffic wardens “Fatimah”. We are not too sure how it started too, but the term has been around for as long as we know it, and everyone sticks to it conveniently – and affectionately.
But is everyone really “affectionate” towards them? Not really. If any, almost no one likes them. In case you haven’t realised the importance of their existence, “Fatimah” is an enforcement officer and he/she plays a major role in enforcing road safety. When everyone is cursing them every time they receive a ticket, have you ever considered the fact that without them, we would be facing chaotic traffic conditions and messy parking on a daily basis? Anyone can park right at the foot of your house, and even if you have designated season lots, non-residents can park all the same and leave you lot-less.
Let’s face it – when they issue a ticket, they are but doing their jobs. And it is a very thankless job that no one shows appreciation. We all want clear roads and our parking rights, but we need to remember who are the heroes who make this happen.
We followed the enforcement officers for half a morning to have a better understanding of how they carry out their duties. Boy, was it a lot of walking under the sweltering heat!
Today, we learn about the different kinds of enforcement officers and their respective roles, the common offences and offences you never knew about, their routines and daily challenges, and to debunk the common myth that they have “quotas” to hit for commission.
Here are the things that you never knew about traffic/parking enforcement officers.
THEY DO NOT GET ANY COMMISSION FOR ISSUING SUMMONS
First up – yes, none of them get any commission from issuing a ticket, so we should all change our thinking and stop convincing ourselves that they are out to get us because if any, the only remuneration they get is a basic salary.
ONE OF THE LOWEST PAID WORKERS IN SINGAPORE
And they are among the lowest paid workers in Singapore. On an average, they get a basic pay of S$900, with a 6-day work week and a daily 12-hour shift. To earn more, they have to do overtime.
As enforcement officers are not categorized as security officers, they may not be covered under NTUC’s Progressive Wage Model, which will see their security peers earn 30% more when their basic monthly salary jumps from $800 to $1,100 on 1 September 2016.
NTUC’s Zainal Sapari asked the government to consider engaging their employers to adopt a Progressive Wage Model so enforcement officers will be paid according to their skills, productivity and career. We hope it will not take years before this is being implemented.
THEY HAVE TO CHANGE TO CIVILIAN’S CLOTHES JUST TO BUY FOOD
The sheer amount of walking and exposure to the various weather elements is terribly physically-taxing. They only get a 15-minute break with every hour of walking, and you know what makes this worse? That they have to change to civilian’s clothes to buy a cup of coffee or lunch, because everyone detests them and they are very often denied by hawkers. We felt so sorry for them upon hearing about this.
THERE ARE THREE DIFFERENT KINDS OF ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
There are three kinds of officers – the Traffic Enforcement Officers who ensure road safety, the Parking Enforcement Officer for those who do not pay for their parking, and the second kind of Parking Enforcement Officer from LTA/ URA/ HDB who ensures season parking and reserved lots are not abused. All in all, there are a total of 700 of them in Singapore.
THERE IS NO FIXED ROUTE NOR ROUTINE FOR THEIR PATROL
Each of them is usually assigned to an area where they would do their patrolling, but there is no fixed route nor routine for them to follow. They conduct their checks at random, so if you are thinking of beating the system by memorising their patterns, you can abort the idea now.
ONCE THEY ISSUE THE TICKET, IT IS IRREVERSIBLE. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME TRYING TO ARGUE YOUR WAY OUT
The issuing of the ticket is irreversible. We lost count of the number of times we see offenders trying to argue their ways out, coming up with all sorts of excuses and some even shouting at the top of their voices – but at the end of the day, they fail to remember that if they had not commit the mistake in the first place, they would not be summoned. Moreover, the officers are just carrying out their duties, and there is absolutely nothing personal. It is most truly pointless to argue nor to get angry at them.
TRAINING FOR TRAFFIC/PARKING ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
To be qualified as an enforcement officer, they have to go through a week of training on how to operate the hand-held device, as well as interpersonal skills on how to handle the members of public should they turn rowdy and violent. There are also annual customer service trainings on how to tackle the unreasonable lot.
THE MOST COMMON OFFENCES (AND EXCUSES)
As overrated as it may sound, expired coupons is really the most common. People either conveniently “forgot” about the time their coupons cover them until, or they are just trying their luck.
Tampering of coupons are pretty common too. Think you can reuse your coupons until pandas go extinct? Think again – the enforcement officers are well-trained and their bionic eyes can tell in one glance whether your coupon is tampered with or not. And the fine can buy you a stack of coupons that could well last you a month, or more. We’d say stick with being honest.
Parking at season lots can warrant a fine too, and remember Confucius’ saying “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you”? Think about how you would feel if you come home one day to find that all your reserved lots are no longer specially reserved for you and that these people got away from parking at your lot.
Parking by roads with double yellow lines is also among the most common offences, as with 6m within a junction. No letting passengers alight at zebra crossing, too!
And by the way, if you think you are smart enough to think of excuses like needing to let an elderly alight or your kids are having the runs, they are excuses that these officers hear of on a daily basis. And no, they still won’t work.
THE TRAFFIC/PARKING ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS CAN STILL ISSUE A FINE EVEN IF YOU ARE IN THE CAR
Do you also know that even by being in the car physically, the enforcement officer has every right to still issue a fine?
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACED BY ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
Rowdy and violent public. Need we say more?
Such a thankless job, indeed. We implore one and all to be more giving towards this lot of people, because like all of you are, they are but earning an honest living.
This message is part of a ladyironchef x Labour Movement project where we seek to share with you insights on the different initiatives by the Labour Movement to give workers in Singapore better jobs, better pay and better work-life balance.