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A Singaporean recounts her personal experience with hiring

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By Staphnie :

I posted my story below on 7 Sep 2015. 5 years on, the story has remained the same for many while the $ value has gone up. It is interesting to read what I wrote 5 years ago on a hot topic of recency. There is no magic in politics indeed…

My Story

I started a small retail business some 2 years ago. Being my own boss, I had to make sure I get the best staff at a market rate within what I could afford as a company. The system ensures that I reached out to Singaporeans first. My job ads said, “Singaporeans/SPR preferred”.

Without the right quota of Singaporeans in my small company, there was no way to take in even just 1 foreign worker for front line sales and service from the indicated traditional markets for my type of business which was retail. I couldn’t even aspire to employ executives from the harder-working people of certain countries which are classified for S pass and they must be paid a higher minimum pay and must have the right educational qualifications.

They never turned up

I had many SG job seekers calling me. All said the same thing on the telephone – “before I come for an interview, how much do you pay? How many days do I work for a week? Can I only do morning shift and have permanent Sunday off? Must I work on weekends?”

<< Hello!!! This is retail … People work in the week and shop after work and on weekends. And I cannot exploit the foreign staff to suit the Singaporean staff. Everyone is a human being and has a family and personal life. >>

So we fixed interview appointments. I waited and waited and each call made to contact them was deliberately cut off by the SG candidates. They never turned up. I had to resolve to make immediate decisions of confirmation for those who came for interviews and expressed enthusiasm. Or I would never get them back for 2nd interviews.

The fear lingered till they actually and physically turned up on that first day of work.

Even so, I had a couple of incidents that they worked the 1st day and complained they had to talk too much to sell and they had no chance to sit down and so they tendered their resignation. They forgot to think about their month-end fat commission. And those who stayed preferred to check their Facebook and Instagram at a far corner while their foreign colleagues stayed alert to interested customers passing by the store. Then they complained their foreign colleagues stole their customers.

Longest-serving staff

My longest-serving staffs were from the foreign pool. I had to maintain my SG-foreign quota so that work permits for these foreign pools would not be cancelled. That meant regardless of the frequent MCs and lateness to work and quarrelsome attitudes, I had to bear with the SG staffs. In fact, when one SG staff resigned, her exit interview with me was – “frankly if I am the boss, I won’t employ a person like me and take such shit attitude”.

Reached out to MPs

Even with such encounters, my job ads still always read “Singaporeans/SPRs preferred”. I even reached out to MPs serving their wards where they have a pool of unemployed single Singaporean mothers. Surprised none even bothered to turn up for the interview appointments because they received regular financial aid.

I had the privilege to meet a WP leader in one of my outings. I shared with him my dilemma as a small business owner and told him not to fight so hard on a restrain on foreign workers. It becomes a burden to business owners, especially small ones like ours.

I shared with him that when I first opened my 1st shop and had no quota for the foreign pool, I had 2 SG sales staff. When one claimed she had a migraine and asked for 2 days MC, the other quickly pulled out her fever tape and put over her forehead. The rest is history. I spent 3 days at the store, opened shop, served customers, cashed transactions, replenished stocks and at 10 pm, closed shop. No lunch, no dinner, no toilet time. Every minute I pulled the shutters down, I missed business.

This WP leader’s reply to me was very different from his own party’s manifesto against foreign workers.

He said personally he was only against S pass foreign pool executives. Quite contrary to his party’s general manifesto against FOREIGN WORKERS with examples of jam-packed public transports, etc.

Honestly, when my car went in for service for 2 days and I attempted to take the bus and train around just to get a real feel, the rides were so pleasant and air-con was even colder than my sports car. I stand declared these rides were not peak-hour rides. And even as frequent as 15-20mins when I missed one. But I remember well the good experience.

The G has put in place perimeters for the S pass foreign pool employment here.

I shared with this WP leader that there is a minimum pay for S pass. And a bigger quota of SG-foreign pool constraint for the companies. It has been fair but probably need more refining with the growing changes of the economy versus the world platform. These foreigners come on their own creditability to seek a job. These people are also realistic in their asking for compensation. They work on local terms, pay taxes and afford their own accommodation. The employers must substantiate to get their employment pass approved. Housing agents will testify that these days, expats have lesser housing allowance from their companies and there are lesser of this kind of people around. And many of them are renting out of their income allocation. Aren’t we seeing more Ang Moh sharing the same lift as us in the HDB estates — no they are not visiting, they live there! But they also make up the critical mass for our retail and F&B businesses while the rich Singaporeans are spending more and more overseas.

Now at rallies, oppositions are fighting against all FOREIGN WORKERS. Against PRCS, against Malaysians, against Bangladeshis, against all sources of foreign workers. Honestly, many of our Singaporeans are higher paid than S pass executives. So $1000 minimum wages are for Singaporean workers working full time or to be paid to all full-time contract blue-collared foreign workers? What about companies trying to balance with employing more part-timers?

Businesses are burning big holes in their expense statements for manpower cost. Many companies are defaulting to pay their employees on time or even pay them. Please try visit Ministry of Manpower labour relations and witness for yourselves. I’ve been there countless times to submit my cases for Singaporean staffs who signed their contracts with my company and never turned up for work after a few days. Just sitting there, I witnessed so many incidents – what is really happening on the ground.

Can small to medium businesses still survive? Can all businesses be truly mechanized and employ minimum staff? Will MNCs that are attracted to Singapore for the stability of a good government, still continue operations here in Singapore with a higher and higher running cost?

I am on the board of directors for a co-operative set up by Ministry of Home Affairs to capture the gaps for ex-offenders and their disadvantaged families that fall through the cracks, to provide mentorship, job match, reintegration back to society and for their children, to support with supplementary education aids and re-socialize them through family days and games and playing music. We reach out to businesses, corporations and rich individuals for support. The government has encouraged many NPOs with financial support for matching funds to spread out the reach of G & community to help the poor and disadvantaged.

I am privileged to have been on different sides of the fence – top, bottom, left and right to understand the real stories and the real world we live in. We learn to spout empty words and empty promises.

Words can say not enough of the personal experience and adventures I’ve been through. I have not come out as a tycoon nor had nothing to feed my family. I’m a beneficiary of the past 50 years’ system that my parents worked hard to bring up we, 3 kids with one bread-earner with a non-paying CPF job. We still had a roof over our head because we were captured by the system.

Today, I do my best to be a benefactor within my means. And yes, we are grateful to have been born in Singapore and for me to have lived through these last 50 years here. We have been the envy of many foreign friends, business associates and even stranger men on foreign streets when they hear we are Singaporeans.

And NO I’m not with a grassroots community nor has any affiliation to any parties. I serve in the community to support a genuine cause. Many give with money, others give with money and effort, I give with time and effort.

Talk is cheap. Every cause has recourse and a consequence. Every claim has a consequence and can make or break many rice bowls.

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