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Wednesday July 30th 2014

Five reasons why I organised the nationwide F & B boycott in May

Many people have asked me why I organised the nationwide F & B boycott for the whole month of May.

The boycott will target F & B outlets which hire more than 10 people and 80% of them must be  foreigners – even though they are permanent residents

I must reiterate that this boycott is not targetted at foreigners working here but rather against errant employers who exploit the F & B industry for their business benefit and also the pro-foreign hiring policies of our government.

Many critics have also slammed me for being xenophobic  but if being patriotic make me looks like one  then I have no choice here.

It is relatively easy to come up with that list as F & B outlets have largely hire foreigners during the past few years as many local Singaporeans understandably have shun away from this industry which features  exploitative cheap wages and long working hours.

Hopefully, the nationwide boycott will wake up the whole industry and sends the right signal to our policy  makers to take a serious look at the overall manpower issue here.

Let me list down  the five reasons why I organise this first-ever  nationwide F & B boycott:-

1. Ang Moh Receptionist

I have visited a few local companies lately and was shocked to see  how predominant the foreign workforce has being.

When I saw how an ang moh can be a receptionist in one of the local SME I visited recently, my blood boiled and I realised now that our country has seriously gone down the road of no return if something drastic is not done and more importantly Singaporeans will have no place in their own country.

Many local employers who saw me and asked for local workers also did so because they want these hirings to boost up their own foreign worker hiring ratio! They have also offer incredibly low salaries even for our young graduates and suggestion of $18oo/month is not uncommon.

These  requests for local staff   are also meant for junior positions and some have even blatantly told me that they have tried to hire foreigners first but their EP permits were rejected by MOM or that the S-Pass permits are not being renewed and so  they no choice now but to hire locals!

Singaporean first policy as mooted by many of our own ministers recently have apparently fallen on our  local employers’  deaf ears!

Someone I knew with a degree in computer science worked for $1700 for a furniture company doing markeing/sales and she is one of the lone local staff in her company. Most of her colleagues are either Filipinos, PRC Chinese or Myarmese.

This lone-Singaporean working experience is being repeated to me many times by our local workforce – that they are the minority  local worker in their own land and usually lord over by a foreign manager above them.

I remembered after one such  company visit I went home and cried for a while…as it was sad to know that our local PMETs have become second-class citizens in their own country. Even local bosses have turned against them!

It made me realised that our local workers have little rights and will never be a priority for both local and foreign companies as now employers can hire cheaper  and younger workers from third world countries  – from low-end F & B hires to high-end CEOs for top brass companies.

I remembered how one tour  company pleaded for some local resumes from me as they have received mostly foreign resumes. I sent him a few but found that none of these local PMETs were called up for an interview for well over a month since I forwarded the company their resumes. I sent a few emails  to the company checking on the status  but none of these mails were responded.

It can be safely assumed that the company has gone on  to hire foreigners to staff their positions and let’s hope that they do not use my resumes to bargain with MOM officers to allow them to approve EP work permits for foreign talents!

I have heard of companies bargaining with MOM work permit department that they have interviewed many local PMETs  for vacancies – showing printed resumes as evidences –  but none was suitable or has taken up their job offer.

If local companies continued to be bias against our own people  here, our country will definitely go down the drain!

If a country could not ensure the  basic need of providing for one’s livelihood then something must be wrong with that regime!

I am sure that for foreign companies operating here, the   hiring pattern will be much worse as our EP work permit system has no quota yet and companies can  bring in 100% foreign staff if they can pay $3000/month and above.

I always feel that MOM should impose a quota on our EP work permit or even raise the salary cap higher to at least $5000/month so that our mid-ranged jobs are somewhat protected.

Our local workers are now being relegated from the work places in our own country! This is probably one of the rare few countries in the world that practises such systematic employment cleansing of its own people and its shameful…

I went home after watching that any moh receptionist and think through my options intensely and realised that we need to do something which hurt businesses collectively to send out a strong message that all is not well here.

We can’t take to the streets here like Hong Kongers  and Malaysians would but we can stop eating at eateries which hire predominantly foreigners.

Our civil movement has all along  being very weak and not many people dare to cross the line as the cane is always waving nearby.

Our risk-averse nature also meant that not many Singaporeans dare to suggest anything that is not within the square box and it takes alot of guts and leadership to carry something unorthodox like a nationwide food outlet boycott.

I don’t know how this will pan out but it is something that is worth trying.

Moreover, if we boycott F & B outlets for a period as a collective group, there is nothing to suggest that we have done something against the law.

We also have the dilemma of targetting one huge F & B chain  for boycott but found that doing so will be rather unjustified and victimising even though it will achieve maximum result as it is easier to hit out at one or two outlets than boycotting them amass.

We decided to organise the boycott against all the outlets that hire more than 80% foreigners in their staffing. We also prefer to boycott outlets that have more than 10 staff at least so that hiring foreigners predominantly is obvious and easy to spot.

Management can argue with all sorts of intelligent reasoning but who you can see and check with verbally can never be very wrong.

We will not hit out at those small outlets that have three staff and all of them are foreigners.

Once the boycott period is over, we can  revert to eating at these F & B outlets which still serve solid superb food.

I will surely miss alot of nice food next month…

2. Hans Cafe and Toastbox Experiences

I have a love hate relationship with Hans Cafe and Toastbox as I love the pastries they served. I will miss these alot in the month of May and I am thinking of having suitable alternatives already.

I always patronised Hans NLB Bugis wherever I met up with friends outside the huge lovely outdoor lobby seats.

I love their pandan cake and coffee and this combination has always being my regular purchase whenever I drop by at Hans.

NLB Hans is not  only airy but relaxing and I have recounted many good experiences of deep conversations  with close friends over there. Though it is slightly humid in the afternoon, the evening experience  can be  surreal and enchanting.

Nevertheless, I am irked by the many countless foreign workers serving at the cafe – they are mostly Filipinos, PRC Chinese and Malaysians. Some of them  could also be permanent residents.

It is difficult to see a local Singaporean working there and if so he could only be the lone Singaporean hire.

Hans Management can take up with me on this if they wish to refute this allegation. I am ready to admit that I am wrong if such allegation is provened to be wrong and I will officially apologise to the business owner.

I also like ToastBox kaya toast and coffee but again they are over-served by foreign workers from Philippines and PRC Chinese. I frequented the ones  at Bishan and Serangoon Nex.

I don’t even have to mention F & B giants like Macdonald, KFC, Burger King and Subway. I can hardly see our local auntie and uncle working there anymore and the transformation has being very widespread and massive.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Ya Kun Coffee and Kopi Roti employing many aged local workers in their workforce and if they can do it why can’t the rest of the F & B outlets do likewise?

Maybe the boycott-affected outlets  should ask these two local outlets for some tips on how they can attract so many aunties and uncles to work for them.

Nevertheless, on a more sombre note, my fear  is that if we have already lost the entire F & B industry to foreign workers due to cost, what is there not to lose anymore? The banking sector? Logistics? Shipping? Transport?Info Tech?

The employers can come up with all sorts of excuses not to hire locals and what can we do as citizens if such foreign hiring is being extended to other sectors as well?

Citizens living in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, S Korea, Japan, Australia, UK, US and other developed countries will protest in the streets if they are faced with such indiscriminate labour issue  but we can’t do so as it is still illegal to do a mass assembly out in the open without written approval from the authorities.

I am afraid that I don’t trust the government anymore as being very pro-employer in their stance, their policies are mostly bent on helping business owners carry on operating – even if it is very anti-local hiring.

3. Prof Lim’s wage shock call

Prof Lim’s recent revolutionary wage shock call also jolted me to realise that the whole F & B sector has being running on cheap foreign labour – sometimes done exploitatively.

The whole F & B sector suffers from cheap wages because it is  constantly being fed with cheap foreign labour – hired easily with all sorts of easily-acquired work permits.

Hourly rate of $5/hour is common and if you can show me a F & B employer is paying $7/hour –  he can be the rare breed in that sector.

Not only will this dampen wages for the bottom 15% of our poorest workers but also prevent employers from thinking of ways to  improve productivity.

If you can continue to hire ten workers at $1000/month why bother to implement innovative ways to improve productivity?

Our old illiterate aunties and uncles now have nothing to fall back on if they need a job for retirement purposes. Gone are the days when I can see an uncle serving me at Macdonald or KFC – it is now a rare sight indeed.

This miserable scenario never happens in Sydney where I lived for close to three years.

There is minimum wage of A$15/hour and locals and foreign students  on student visa work side by side to keep the business going.

Sandwiches cost A$5 and a coffee around A$2.50 but no one complains as the buyers themselves earn a decent salary due to minimum wage legislation in their own industry.

Who can really survive in Singapore on $1000/month  working 10 hours a day for six days a week?

Only cheap foreign younger workers can as they are young and probably very naive and thus are easily exploited by our employers.

But does this means that Singaporeans workers  will always have to remain on the sidelines just because someone from a third world country is willing to be exploited – abeit willingly?

If the F & B industry can suffer such a fate my fear is that other sectors may follow suit  as unscrupulous employers go all out to squeeze our  cheap foreign labour – even if they have a degree and are highly skilled.

4. Unfair dismissals – by foreign bosses

I have also seen a spate of unfair dismissals from our PMETs recently – mostly suffered at the hands of foreign bosses.

This is also probably one of the few rare country in the world that allows foreigners to take over the management of businesses here with many locals working under them.

Granted that some foreign MNCs will only allow their top brass to be staffed with their own people but when a large majority of our  people have to work under foreign managers in our own country, something is wrong somewhere.

You can never see that happening in Australia as their senior management is still very localised – even though the country probably has one of the highest migrant population in the world.

Migrants usually work below a local Aussie manager and the whole system goes on amicably smooth.

Moreover, when we have to take orders from foreign managers hired in from third world countries, there is the feeling that either our education fails us miserably or our policies need a thorough revamping. My take is that both of these two are at fault.

Our educational system taught us all to axe exams and follow what the textbooks told us – it is never about thinking out of the box or have an enquiring mind of our own.

We fail badly when our company needs us to find  ready solution  to a problem at work as we always have SOP to follow and when something fails we all need time to form a committee and look for a solution over a few weeks.

So, when many of our own PMEs could not meet up with work expectations planned out by our foreign bosses, we were axed.

Yet, the recent increase in unfair dismissals that I have seen made me realised that we are entering into an ominous future – one that is dictated by foreign managers.

As this is our country and if we can’t manage our own future here – something has to be done to stop this rot from going on.

Already, many of our top talents have already left the country and the serious brain drain will continue if nothing is done to stop the exodus here – leaving the country in the hands of foreign talents.

5.  Country that no one is proud of

This is also the first time that such  a mass nationwide F & B boycott has been called and I feel that it may not be the last.

Hopefully, it will reach a feverish pitch whereby our people can come together and be seen as one voice – fighting for our own future.

I have seen too many young graduates recently telling me that all they wish for is to leave this sick country and stay abroad – be it Australia, Canada or New Zealand.

I have told them that it is also not a bed of roses elsewhere as I have stayed abroad for about three years in Sydney.

They say that they would rather be second-class citizens in other countries than first-class citizens here!

They have nothing to be proud of and mind you I am talking of young people who are gainfully employed and doing well in their careers.

Many could not speak well of the country and more seriously they have harboured alot of resentment against a regime that is hell bent on bringing in more foreigners in the near future.

They felt disconnected, unbelonged and more seriously disloyal.

Many questioned if there is a war-like situation tomorrow, will they bother to report to their army camps and defend their country – which is now filled full with foreigners? Who are they fighting for right now?

If your country is over-run by foreigners and your livelihood is jeopardised by cheap foreign talents, there is every  reason to feel embittered – especially if you feel that making a basic living here is just so difficult.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

NB:  Be brave Singaporeans and  turn up for our boycott launch on 1st May at Ya Kun Coffee  The Central, Clark Quay between 1.30pm to 3 pm.This does not constitute an illegal assembly as most foreigners/F & B bosses  will want us to fear – we merely go there and have a cuppa chat.  It is just a casual gathering of like-minded Singaporeans chatting over a cup of coffee and you can leave anytime  you want to. Note that there is a SDP event from 3 to 7pm at nearby Hong Lim Park.

 

Reader Feedback

16 Responses to “Five reasons why I organised the nationwide F & B boycott in May”

  1. Blood-boiled says:

    I remembered I went for an interview in 2008 and was asked to state an expected salary. I had worrking experience but was trying to switch industry so I said I just expect a fresh Grad’s pay. To my shocked the interviewer said that the starting pay for fresh grads is only $1800!!! My blood also boiled because few days before I just read in the papers and the pay was reported to be around $2500 or more. I could have rebutted her using this fact. I didn’t believed she could be that ignorant. Either she is an a$$hole trying to taking advantage of an unemployed person or it just showed that foreigners have spoiled our market rates to the extend that she thought the starting pay is the same as 15 years ago.

    • Anon says:

      $1.8K fresh grad pay is 20 years ago. And that is for non-honours or those less technical degrees like business or mass comm. Even 20 years ago, a typical Sinkie with local engineering degree will get minimum $2.2K — mostly get $2.4K.

      The current situation is good only for:-
      1. business owners.
      2. management and senior execs whose salary increment and bonus depends on how much profit is made.
      3. ministers, mp’s and senior civil servants whose generous bonuses and salary increments and career promotions depend on GDP.

  2. Patriot says:

    Gilbert, i support what you are doing. You get treat how u allow urself to be treated -its time we stand up for ourselves

  3. Joan tan says:

    I wish to add that I recently knew of a Singaporean worker who worked in a Popular bookstore, lamenting that her pinoy manager, who is in charge of the duty roster, often gave weekend duties to the Singaporean workers so that the foreign workers can have their weekends off or fly back to their countries for holidays.

    And she is also the many people who voted for PAP, the very ones who are most negatively impacted.

    Their minds are just totally brain washed that they can complain but cannot understand the root of this problem.

    • J Y says:

      Maybe the Singaporean employees of Popular can lodge a complain with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices, providing details of the number of times in which they were made to work on weekends. I think MOM should investigate the matter and hold the employer responsible if the manager was bias in arranging work schedules.

      However, if some of those working on weekends don’t mind to work all weekends for the higher pay, just leave them alone.

    • Gilbert Goh says:

      Hi Joan,

      I would like to speak with you in private on this matter.

      Please email me at gilbert@transitioning.org.

      I have heard of such indiscriminate management before and this needs to be exposed.

      Rest assured that all our communication will be treated with utmost confidentiality.

      Gilbert Goh

      • Chin Tu lan says:

        Hi gilbert,
        We have locals who discriminate locals coz HR others!I would think that as long as it is discriminatory practice,WE should highlight it.I would say that never under estimate the power of 1 plus 5.Speak out sinkees.Please do not hope that Tripartite will do anything.They are on the pay roll of the gahment and gahment are pro employers.That’s it!Mr Gilbert,Let’s do it the other way.

        • Chin Tu lan says:

          Hey Gilbert,
          I went to Ya Kun Central.Yes,I saw they employed Elderly singaporeans.I bought a cup of Tea for $1.50.I noticed thesecurity guard is always looking at the cafe.I feel a sense of tension,with some tell tale sign from the staff whenever a customer walk in.I was there for about 20 mins,nothing to do!Even with common ground,it is so difficult to get singaporeans JUST TALK!It is a waste of everybody’s time if you do not provide the direction.

          • Gilbert Goh says:

            Hi Chin.

            I apologised that we have to shift our gathering place to basement one as the management of Ya Kun contacted me the day before stating that they are uncomfortable with us meeting there for the launch.

            I have posted the change one day before on my blog but many people may not have noticed the change in location.

            We have about twenty people supporting us at the launch.

            Thanks for the support and sorry again for the last minute change in location.

            I believe many people have also turned up but couldn’t find us at Ya Kun – my sincere apologies.

            We will do better the next time.

            Gilbert Goh

  4. mIKE says:

    Filipinos are a very cohesive society. Singaporeans are fragmented by the various PAP and government policies.

  5. Mark says:

    I support Gilbert’s motion.

  6. Alice says:

    Boycott COFFEE CLUB!!! The foreigners don’t understand English and gave me attitude. Esp the outlet at marina square. Service sucks. Bought a main course, not including the set dinner from their menu and the pinoy manager claimed that i enjoyed the promotion so cannot use voucher. The Pinoy manager can only reply “no”, “cannot” and “stated in terms and conditions”. Wrote in to their Management but everything was swept under the carpet.

    • J Y says:

      I always make it a habit to read all the terms & conditions on the voucher before I redeem it. If the words are too small, use a magnifying glass. Normally, promotions cannot go together with vouchers or discount cards. Usually, the promotional discount should be more than that of a discount card. If you find that you don’t get a fair deal after calculations, then don’t patronise the place. It is best to ask them whether they accept any voucher for certain meals before you decide whether to eat there or not.

    • Deadly Virus says:

      So many people are very stupid and continue to complain and complain and complain………………….

      If you just know how to complain so well, please go to the Ministry of Manpower and complain to the new Manpower Minister.

      Nobody ask you to spend your money on those F&B outlets.

      To those readers on this website who also love to complain, it is better to kill yourself and leave this world for good.

      Who ask you to support the wrong group ?

  7. Johnson Australia says:

    To Alice: pls don’t blame others if you don’t read the fine print. In most cases when you have enjoyed a promotion a voucher can’t be used with it. Stop blaming others, shame on you!

  8. looksee says:

    hotels too! their cafes/banquet crew mostly are foreigners.

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