The Ministry of Health (MOH) has responded to media queries pertained to its recruitment call for swabbers and swab assistants, stating that the employment offered is a short-term contract for swab operations and does not provide any progression pathway.
Earlier on 12 May, the MOH announced that it aims to ramp up Singapore’s COVID-19 testing capacity to 40,000 a day by later this year. To facilitate this, the Health Promotion Board (HPB), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and the Employment Insitute (e2i) are recruiting swabbers and swab assistants, while offering S$3,400 to S$3,800 salary per month.
However, the salary being offered to swabbers and swab assistants have raised the issue of salary discrepancy among healthcare workers.
One nurse took to Facebook on 14 May claiming that the basic salary – for the first year – for nursing graduates is only S$1,900 per month, while people with no medical background can earn up to S$3,800 within such short period.
In response to media queries, the MOH explained that the job positions for swabbers are short term contracts for swab operations and do not provide any progression pathway unlike full-time healthcare professional roles in the public healthcare system.
It added that the employment will not include any additional allowances or bonuses.
In fact, the MOH revealed that an entry-level registered nurse can earn an average gross monthly salary – after adding in allowances and bonuses – of between S$3,300 to S$5,200, depending on the nurse’s qualifications.
“They are also eligible for annual salary increments as well as training opportunities to upskill themselves and develop a lifelong career as a nurse clinician, educator or leader in the healthcare sector,” said the MOH.
“The Government pays us peanuts,” said frontline workers
However, healthcare workers have a different say about the monthly salary for entry-level registered nurses.
Ms Sim’s Facebook post – which has since been taken down for unknown reason(s) – has led many frontline workers to voice out their opinions on the issue of the discrepancy in salary and some nurses claimed that the Government pays them “peanuts” salary.
One nurse, Joanna Chan commented on Ms Sim’s post, saying that the Government pays nurses “peanuts” which has caused her to stop working in any Government-owned hospitals. She added that nurses are treated like a maid and often looked down upon by people.
A healthcare worker, Victoria Anne Marilyn, claimed that some of her colleagues have been working for almost five years but their salaries are still below S$3,000. She added that healthcare workers work hard, get exposed to many diseases, always get shouted at, and sometimes are told to get off the train, but still earn “peanuts” salary.
A frontline worker, who has a Degree qualification in biomedical sciences and five years of laboratory-related job experiences, wrote that her current salary is not equivalent to her qualifications, as compared to her sister’s friend who has no medical background but earns S$3,000 of salary just to do the COVID-19 testings.
A nurse also commented that nurses in Singapore “earn peanuts” which caused many Singaporean nurses to work in foreign countries rather than in their homeland.
A former nurse, Warren Low, wrote that he only earned a monthly salary of S$1,600 for the first year with no overtime pay, and claimed that the pay raise is “so little and slow”. He hinted that he left the nursing industry due to the low salary.
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.
Another nurse, May Goh, supported Ms Sim’s statement, while stating that no changes have been made for the nurses’ wages in the past five years. Ms Goh claimed that the allowances given are merely for night and afternoon allowances, while some companies do not even offer Flexi-Benefit.
She stressed that nurses only want their salary to be reviewed genuinely and be fairly compensated.
MOH says the employment is short term contract and no allowances/bonuses, but would it be fair for nurses with experience?
A healthcare worker, Qai Taib noted that some people justified the salary offered to swabbers with its short term job and no bonus or benefits. However, he questioned if it is fair for a temporary worker with no experience to take an experienced person’s place at work and earn higher pay.
Mr Taib further explained that those who are not working in the healthcare sector will not understand. He added that healthcare workers are getting a lower salary compared to the people who work in other industries.