Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) aims to ramp up the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity to 40,000 a day by later this year, adding that it has conducted over 224,262 tests as of 12 May. In fact, the National Development Minister Lawrence Wong also announced on 12 May that all 323,000 migrant workers staying in dormitories will be tested for the disease.
To ramp up the testing capacity, the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) – an organization under the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) – is recruiting swabbers and swab assistants.
Based on e2i’s job posting, swab assistants will earn a monthly salary of S$3,400 per month, while swabbers will earn S$3,800 a month. Due to the nature of the job, all individuals who are hired will undergo on-the-job-training and assessment before converting to swabber.
While the requirements to apply for the job include minimum N level or WPLN5, medically fit with no history of chronic diseases, and proficient in English and other languages.
Nevertheless, many frontline workers claimed that the salary offered for swabbers is too high, compared to nurses who have the level of qualification of healthcare staff.
Ms Sim Hong Yu, who is a nurse, voiced her frustration on Facebook earlier today (14 May) following the job posting by e2i, stating that she was appalled at the salary offered by the Government to non-healthcare background individuals in the job posting.
“I do understand and accept that there’s higher risks involved in this application and also appreciate those who stepped forward to do this. However I really want to highlight the under carpet issue of salary differences,” she wrote.
Ms Sim explained that the average salary for nursing graduates is S$1,900 and the salary does not even reach to S$3,800 after five to six years of working, while people with a non-healthcare background could earn up to S$3,800 of monthly salary in such a short period.
“Even the SQ Care Ambassadors get higher pay than our new graduates! Are you saying that our diplomas and degrees are worthless in the usual day? You mean healthcare workers do not face risks on usual day work?” she asked.
Noting that the high salary may be due to the job’s risk of getting infected with the COVID-19 and the fewer benefits provided for swabbers, Ms Sim questioned whether she could get a higher salary with her Degree qualification in nursing and 11 years of experience.
“If I apply for this job, do I get higher pay because I have a Degree in Nursing with 11 years experience? If no, then what message are you trying to put across?” she asserted.
She hopes that reviews will be made for the salary of healthcare workers after the pandemic has ended, while stating “don’t have to put up a big show of thanking us on social media, but give us tangible appreciation in our daily work.”
Frontline workers voiced out about being underpaid and given with no overtime pay
Ms Sim’s statement has inspired many frontline workers to come forward and voice out their issue of being underpaid, in fact, some of them claimed that they were given with no overtime pay.
A former nurse said that she decided to quit her job as she could not survive with such a “pathetic payroll” and potential health risks.
One commentator, who is a doctor, noted that he agreed with Ms HongYu Sim’s statement. He added that nurses are being paid for their level of care and expertise.
Some frontline workers indicated that people see a nurse’s jobs as doing “charity” because of their passion while neglecting the fact that nurses also need to survive.
Frontline worker commented on Ms Sim’s post, saying that the starting salary for nurses with a Diploma level is S$2,500 nowadays, while nurses with an NUS (National University of Singapore) degree is S$3,500 based on “hearsay”. She explained that healthcare workers prefer to have a raise in salary rather than a show of solidarity as an appreciation.
Meanwhile, one netizen commented that nurses are not the only workers who are being paid lower than S$3,400 per month, adding that nurses with Degree level are paid more than the amount of salary that Ms HongYu Sim has mentioned.
The netizen further revealed that healthcare staff are provided with sufficient bonuses, while swabbers have no bonus and may be jobless after the pandemic. He further hinted that Ms HongYu Sim should have grasped the situation better with her 11 years of expertise in the healthcare industry.
Ms HongYu Sim responded to the comment and claimed that her intention was only to speak out for the rights of nurses.