MOM refutes ambulance firm's claims over delayed payments to vaccinators at Bukit Timah CC

At least 15 workers were not paid for almost three months. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Claims by Singapore Ambulance Association (SAA) that "complications" arose over employment terms, further delaying payment to vaccinators and nurses it owed wages to, have been refuted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM).

An "unsolicited" cheque from the ambulance provider, made out to MOM and TADM, has also been returned, they said on Wednesday (Sept 29).

TADM has helped 15 affected workers who filed claims with it and the Small Claims Tribunal since July.

On Sept 15, an SAA spokesman had told The Straits Times that this had created "complications" that delayed their salaries.

This was because MOM did not determine whether the complainants are employees or contractors, and whether Central Provident Fund requirements applied, he had said.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for MOM and TADM refuted this, saying: "The question of CPF payment was, in fact, not raised in any of the vaccinators' claims."

She added that the workers just wanted to be paid according to what SAA had agreed.

They were allegedly owed payments of between $1,300 and over $4,500 since June 15. At least 15 workers were not paid for almost three months.

Furthermore, claims lodged with TADM did not signify that the vaccinators were employees and that CPF would be payable, she said.

While TADM primarily mediates employment disputes, it does not turn away independent contractors who seek mediation and offers to contact the service buyer to see if it can facilitate recovery of their payment, she added.

"It is disappointing that SAA would introduce new issues which were not even raised by the vaccinators, and then use this to justify their refusal to arrive at an early settlement," the spokesman said.

SAA then sent a cheque made out to MOM and TADM, with the expectation that the ministry will process payment to the affected workers.

On Wednesday, the spokesman for MOM and TADM said the cheque was returned to SAA, which was informed that it remains responsible for resolving its own obligations to all its vaccinators, including the vaccinators who had filed their claims at Small Claims Tribunal or sought help at TADM.

On Sept 15, MOM and TADM announced that the work pass privileges of Mr Eugene Tok Yong Fa and SAA director Whey Zhen Hui were suspended for failing to pay the 15 workers based at the Bukit Timah Community Club vaccination centre.

Mr Tok is the director of Singapore Emergency Ambulance Services (Seas), according to Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority records on Sept 15.

In February, the Health Ministry had filed reports against Seas for allegedly misrepresenting multiple public and private hospitals in its online listings. This followed feedback that search engine results for ambulances from at least six hospitals lead to the private operator's contact number.

He was also the director of the now defunct Singapore Emergency Medical Care Training and Services.

On Sept 15, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said Parkway Shenton - which runs the vaccination centre - will provide "goodwill payment" to the 15 workers who filed claims.

Eight affected workers that ST spoke to in July have since said that they have received goodwill payment from Parkway Shenton.

The spokesman for MOM and TADM noted that SAA had started making payments to some vaccinators who did not file claims at the Small Claims Tribunal or seek help at TADM as early as Aug 5.

She added that Mr Tok's refusal to pay vaccinators who had lodged claims with TADM and the Small Claims Tribunal was consistent with comments made by him to a TADM mediator on Sept 9 for an unrelated salary case.

"In particular, when the mediator remonstrated to him that the vaccinators should not be made to work for free, Mr Tok remarked that they had volunteered their services," she said.

She added that SAA had also failed to pay a money order from the Small Claims Tribunal to one of the vaccinators by the agreed date.

"We note that the vaccinator was only paid after Parkway Shenton indicated its intention to provide goodwill payments and after MOM took enforcement actions against SAA and related parties by curtailing their work pass privileges," she said.

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