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New NMP Douglas Foo once said S’poreans don’t want to work as dishwashers in his company even at $3k

ST reported today (18 Sep) that 9 new NMPs have been selected to enter Parliament. They are:

  1. Labour unionist Arasu Duraisamy
  2. Sakae Holdings chairman Douglas Foo Peow Yong
  3. Executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra Ho Wee San
  4. Communication and technology professor Lim Sun Sun
  5. Founder of inter-religious non-profit group Roses of Peace Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad
  6. Corporate social responsibility consultant Anthea Ong Lay Theng
  7. President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore Irene Quay Siew Ching
  8. Labour economist and associate professor Walter Edgar Theseira
  9. Paralympian swimmer Yip Pin Xiu

All the present NMPs, whose terms end on Friday (21 Sep), have stepped down. The 9 new NMPs are said to have "met all the constitutional criteria and requirements".

Leader of the House Grace Fu said in the statement that these 9 NMPs come with good credentials in their respective fields, and have keen interest in a broad range of issues.

One of the new NMPs, Sakae Holdings chairman Douglas Foo, told ST that he was excited to take on the new role at such an interesting time in Singapore’s economy.

“I hope to use this platform to reach out to businesses and spread the message about how important it is for them to take a hard look at their business models and use digital technology to innovate and prepare themselves for the future economy,” he said.

Sakae Holdings chairman Douglas Foo no stranger to controversy

Mr Foo is no stranger to controversy. In a media interview a few years ago in Sep 2012, He said that despite offering $3,000 salary for dishwashing at Sakae Sushi, no Singaporeans wanted to take on the job ('$3,000 salary on offer but still no takers for dishwashing jobs', 13 Sep 2012).

And those who took up dishwashing quit soon after they discovered how tough it could be, he said.

He told the media that his restaurant chain's advertisement on social-networking site Facebook for dishwashers, with the pay highlighted, was not a marketing gimmick. He also disclosed that his dishwashers' wage was what Sakae Sushi paid their managers and supervisors too.

"Yes, the salary is high but look, it's a tough job. You stand on your feet, work weekends and it's dirty and wet," he noted.

Mr Foo said he is looking for Singaporeans and permanent residents. "If we can hire a local guy, why not? I'd rather we do this than rely on a foreigner."

ST reported that at $3,000 a month, dishwashers at Sakae Sushi earned about three times what their counterparts elsewhere could get.

Even then NTUC deputy secretary-general Ong Ye Kung asked on his Facebook page, "I am surprised at $3,000 there are no takers." He added that its Employment and Employability Institute is contacting Mr Foo's company to help them.

Company "clarifies" with regard to $3k salary figure

When the news came out that Mr Foo was offering $3k for dishwashers, some 300 enquiries and applications poured in. ST followed up with a report the next day ('$3k a month to wash dishes? They want the job',14 Sep 2012) reporting about it.

"They (applicants) came after the restaurant chain made headlines for saying it could not get workers at that ($3k) salary, which is more than twice what an average dishwasher earns," ST reported.

Then, Mr Foo's company, Sakae Sushi, came out to clarify that the position also includes other cleaning responsibilities, not just dishwashing only. "(It) is very physically demanding," the company said on its Facebook page.

Sakae Holdings Brand and communications manager Gregg Lewis further clarified that the dishwashers need to work 12 hours a day, six days a week - from 10.30am to 10.30pm. This differed slightly from the nine hours a day that Mr Foo had told the media earlier.

"What Douglas (Foo) mentioned previously (9 hours a day) was based on one of the scenarios tested that was found not to be feasible due to crowd volume," Mr Lewis said trying to cover for Mr Foo.

Then netizens discussed online wondering if Mr Foo's company had flouted the Employment Act by forcing workers to work for more than 44-hour per week, since working 12 hours a day for 6 days would mean a 72-hour work week.

Mr Foo then further clarified that the $3k package indeed included overtime pay for the extra hours and as such, it did not contravene the Act.

Netizens call for boycott of Sakae Sushi

Many netizens at the time, felt Mr Foo was not sincere when he talked about offering dishwashers the $3k salary. Many called for a boycott of his restaurant chain.

A hardwarezone forumer said of Mr Foo at the time:

"What the boss of this restaurant did is so shameful. He went to say there are no Singaporean takers for a $3000 a month dishwasher job wiping dirt off dishes before putting it into the dishwasher. This gave the impression that lowly skilled Singaporeans are fussy workers demanding too much pay... It turned out this is a 72 hours 6 days a week job. Given 44 hours a week is the MOM legal work week, it means the worker is suppose to perform a whopping 28 hours of OT with one day of rest per week. This is $10 per hour wage lower than the lowest minimum wage in Australia, USA, etc. It is hardship money. Even if I have money I’ll never eat at this SAKAE SUSHI."

Now that Mr Foo is an NMP, do you think he would help push for implementing a minimum wage policy for Singaporeans?