MOM probing firms for not paying workers at Bukit Timah CC vaccination centre

The affected workers received a message in a group chat on June 7 telling them not to turn up for work the next day.
The affected workers received a message in a group chat on June 7 telling them not to turn up for work the next day.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is probing companies accused of not paying some workers at Bukit Timah Community Club (CC) vaccination centre.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for the ministry and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management confirmed on Friday (July 2) that MOM had received nine complaints from people who had been engaged as vaccinators and nurses at one of the vaccination centres, claiming that they have not been paid.

ST understands that the two companies providing the workers at the centre are the Singapore Ambulance Association (SAA) and Megamanpower.

The ministry said it is helping those affected resolve their payment issues and checking if other vaccinators and nurses are similarly affected.

Eight of the healthcare workers at the centre told ST that they have yet to receive their salary for the month of May and some for the first week of last month.

They are allegedly owed payments of between about $1,300 and over $4,500 since June 15.

The affected workers received a message in a Telegram group chat on June 7 telling them not to turn up for work the next day.

Ms Norshaira Maszlan, 24, who was a vaccinator nurse at the centre, said: "We had shifts lined up for the next few days when we were suddenly told that our contracts were terminated."

Another nurse at the centre, who wanted to be known only as Ms Chania, 23, added that she often worked 14-hour shifts and that the discovery that she was not being paid was "very frustrating".

The affected workers were also shocked to discover that they were not employees of Megamanpower - despite signing timesheets with its name - but were considered contractors of SAA.

When queried by ST, both companies confirmed that the workers were SAA contractors.

One of the vaccinators at the centre, Mr Hee Jia Yuan, 21, said: "I was quite worried to find out that we signed a contract for service, which meant that we were not protected by the Employment Act.

"This is a problem for people new to the workforce who are unaware of the difference between (being) an independent contractor and employee."

He and three other vaccinators said this was their first part-time job after serving as medics during national service.

Seven of the workers have since filed police reports against those who recruited them. They told ST that 19 of them are in a Telegram group chat created to seek help in claiming the salaries owed to them.

The vaccination centre is run by Parkway Shenton, whose chief executive Edmund Kwok said it had hired Megamanpower to supply workers until early last month.

A spokesman for Megamanpower told ST that it then "approached SAA for supply of medics and nurses".

On Saturday (July 3), Mr Kwok said Parkway Shenton was unaware of the extent and amount owed to staff because staff remuneration was a private matter between the recruitment agency and its employees.

He added: “Some of these staff did reach out to us earlier, but we were only able to help highlight the matter to Megamanpower because we do not have a direct contractual relationship with the staff.”

Mr Kwok confirmed Parkway Shenton had re-engaged some of the same workers after the private healthcare provider's contract with Megamanpower ceased, to ensure they did not lose jobs due to the incident.

In response to queries about what checks Parkway Shenton had to ensure its staff were qualified, Mr Kwok  said that, to free up valuable medically trained staff to perform other more important tasks in the centre or at other medical facilities, these vaccination centres were operated by a combination of the healthcare provider's own staff and supplementary manpower from external agencies.

Mr Kwok noted that Megamanpower was engaged to provide manpower to support staff in running the centre. This included filling a variety of roles, including registration staff and vaccinators.

He added: “Our contract was solely with Megamanpower. This contract ceased in early June and payments for all invoices have been made to Megamanpower.”

He clarified that the current group of staff working at Bukit Timah CC are not from Megamanpower.

In response to queries about whether Parkway Shenton was aware of the partnership with SAA, he said none of Parkway Shenton's centres were ever involved in any contractual agreements with the private ambulance operator.

He said Parkway Shenton was working with MOM regarding investigations into the matter to resolve the dispute.