“With the pick-up [in the economy], unless they quickly revise this policy, a lot of employers will face the same problem that I’m facing now,” he said. Indeed, several other employers and business owners have told TOC they too face the same problems.Here are a few important points from the interview of Mr Ng
- Mr Ng has 29 total staff, of which 2 of them who are PRCs face non-renewal of work permit
- Mr Ng claims that if MOM does not renew the PRC workers' permits he will have "a lot of problems recruiting locals ... to fill their gap", and says that that no Singaporeans want to work in a restaurant
- Mr Ng pays the PRC workers around $800-$1000 a month
"A weekend visit to Han’s restaurant at Harbourfront shocked me as the four staff working there were all Filipinos. From the person that took my order to the cashier and chefs, they were all foreigners happily going about their jobs. The only thing that stood them out from the former Han’s staff that I had seen previously, was the age difference. All of them appeared to be in their twenties. I found myself paying for my order grudgingly.
Are mature Singaporeans not able to fill such positions even if they were much older and were a little slower? Must employers continue to fill in service positions with foreigners while claiming that locals refuse to work longer hours for miserable pay? Are all the employers’ complaints valid? I am sure that for every Singaporean’s refusal to work at such service jobs, there should be another who do not mind such work. This is especially so in this time of economic downturn. Let us not generalise and condemn the working attitude of Singaporeans just because of a few black sheep."
Unfortunately for Mr Ng (and Andrew Loh and Leong Sze Hian), I am afraid that I have to side with Gilbert Goh on this issue. Let's put Mr Ng's problems in perspective.
- Mr Ng has a workforce of 29 people. Only 2 out of these 29 people are going to face permit renewal problems. Is Mr Ng claiming that his restaurant will have to shut down with 27 workers, or 93% of his original workforce? If the loss of 2 workers out of the 29, of which he is only paying $800-1000 each, is going to have such a massive impact on his business, then I seriously think Mr Ng is a lousy business manager and has some bucking up to do.
- Mr Ng claims that no Singaporeans want to work in a restaurant. Is this really the truth? Already we have elderly in Singapore who have to scrap together a living by collecting cardboard boxes & empty drink cans from the streets, or selling tissue paper in the hawker centres. Or they are earning a measly $600 a month as cleaners at the hawker centres. I am sure these workers would eagerly jump at a chance to earn $800-$1000 a month at Mr Ng's air-conditioned Chinese restaurant, which has much better working conditions than a job that involves picking up cardboard boxes!!
- Let's consider the problems created by the foreign worker PRCs.
- they depress wages for Singaporeans who work in the similar industries
- they take up living space in already crowded Singapore, contributing to property price inflation that is making housing unaffordable for Singaporeans
- they contribute to the discrimination of the elderly in Singapore, who now have to work to their dying day
Which one do we want, Singaporeans? Do we want to allow Mr Ng to be able to squeeze out profits from his business by using cheap PRC workers, or do we want improve the livelihoods and dignity of our elderly Singaporeans, who were the backbone of our economic progress, and who are struggling to survive despite having made so many sacrifices for Singapore!!??
At the end of the day, the problems of the PRC workers belong to the Government of China. The problems of the filipino workers belong to the Government of Philippines. The Singapore Government must take care first and foremost of the people of Singapore.
That is why I feel that the recalibration of foreign worker quota system is a step in the right direction for this country, and that Mr Ng should deal with his hiring problems like a man, rather than whining about what is clearly a pro-Singaporean government policy.