Restaurant chain Sakae Sushi has recently mentioned that it has received close to 300 applications for their dishwasher positions which pays a cool $3000 a month (source Yahoo Singapore)
The restaurant further added that it has ten of such positions available for Singaporeans and permanent residents.
One of our readers – Alan has applied for the dishwasher position though he has a science degree from NUS.
So far, he has informed me that the human resource department of Sakae Sushi has yet to respond to his application.
I wonder if he is serious in applying for that position as it is a job that is way below his educational qualifications and expertise.
Moreover, if we have local graduates working as dishwashers in our restaurants then something is wrong with our system here – even though the pay is better than most fresh graduates’ starting pay.
Even if he is selected for the dishwashing job, one wonders also if he can stay for the long haul – something which bothers most restaurant owners as dishwashers have one of the highest drop out rate.
While working for CDC and sourcing for dishwashers for restaurant owners, I must add that the turn over rate for dishwashers is almost the same as cleaners.
They come and go as they wish and sometimes they don’t even turn up for work without informing the supervisors resulting in a work backlog at the kitchen end.
Most of the modern restuarants use dishwashing machines but they still need workers to clear the plates of any leftover debris, place them on the trays and later load them up to the washing machines.
After the mechanised cleaning, they have to bring the clean utensils down, dry them with cloth and place the utensils back to the proper trays – a job which requires almost non-stop physical work and standing continuously for 8 to 10 hours daily.
I visited a large food court a few years ago and observed the entire dishwashing line operation and was amazed that there was actually a small platoon of about ten dishwashers performing the monotonous task – even though the actual washing is done by a large machine.
Naturally, such jobs are mostly filled by foreigners as the pay is pathetic and the work laborious.
There is also nothing glamorious in the job and Singaporeans largely shunned from such work – however desperate the jobseekers may be.
The few Singaporeans that I referred to the food court have mostly fled from the job after trying it out for a month or two.
Dishwashing job normally pays around $800-$900 with a meal or two thrown in and you normally have to work for six days – including weekend with no special allowance.
Its not unusual to work for ten hours on end for the whole day - like the one at Sakae Sushi though some restaurants try to break it down to two split shifts.
The low pay structure, long working hours and tough work environment have place dishwashers as one of the most unglamorious job here in Singapore - next to the cleaners.
So, Sakae Sushi’s $3,000 dishwashing job advertisement is like a strong ray of sunlight in the dark bottomless pit of the F & B industry which has long being dominated by third work foreign workers out here for their first taste of overseas venture.
Employers have all along exploit young foreign workers from third world countries referred by unscrupulous employment agencies as they are fit, young and most importantly ready to work very hard for more than ten hours daily.
They are seen as fat cash cows as these foreign workers have to pay a tidy 4-figure sum to employment agencies back home who then share the profits with their counterparts in Singapore who will then place them out to more-than-willing F & B owners.
Sakae Sushi has also confirmed that they paid out $2300 – $2900 as agent fees for each foreign dishwasher the employment agency has brought in – this translates into a 6-figure sum if the company requires close to 30-40 dishwashers regularly.
It is thus not surprising that the F & B giant decides to hire their own dishwashers from now on as it is money not well spent if there is such a huge turn over rate.
To make matters worse, I have also received emails from readers complaining how F & B owners brought in foreign workers using the EP passes as they have exhausted their unskilled work permit quota only to have them work as dishwashers or cashiers when they have arrived.
These foreign workers brought in as supervisors or restaurant managers on application are also fictitious as F & B businesses only require them for low-end work such as waiters or dishwashers.
Their agreed pay structure was naturally not honoured as which F & B owners will pay $3000 for a waiter or a dishwasher?
With the tightening of work permits for low-end foreign workers due to the slew of protests from the population, F & B employers will be the ones who will suffer the most as they have all along over-depend on foreign workers for their operation.
Yet, the pertinent question to ask is should MOM tightens their regulation on a sector that not many Singaporeans are interested in?
Why make it so difficult for F & B employers to hire foreigners unless MOM decides to implement a minimum wage for such low-end work so that our locals will be lured back to a traditionally unattractive work industry?
Should they not tighten up on the damaging EP work permits as these jobs are probably those that most Singaporeans are capable of doing but don’t have the chance as employers have the choice to hire foreigners because of the EP permits.
More worrying, EP work permits do not carry any quota and any companies here can hire as many foreigners as they wish so long they meet the criterion.
But most Singaporeans will also ask – can a dishwasher be paid $3000 a month? Is there a catch somewhere?
The company has came out to stipulate that the job entails 12 hours of daily work for six days a week with meal breaks thrown in.
Working for 72 hours a week has already contravened MOM’s 44-hour work week labour law regulation though the manpower authorities have long close an eye on such matters so that employers could continue the labour exploitation.
Personally, I also wonder whether such lucrative jobs will be given only to the selected few Singaporeans or permanent residents to make up for the quota number so that the giant F & B can shop around for more cheaper foreigners after the quota has being met.
Employers have also use the cry-wolf method of not being able to hire any local Singaporeans though they have advertised so that MOM will relax on its foreign labour legislation but it looks like the manpower body has really toughened it’s stand this time round as we have also received quite alot of requests for manpower staffing from local employers.
Services sector employers can currently employ Work Permit holders up to 45% of the company’s/firm’s total workforce. PRC Work Permit holders can make up to 9% within the 45% Dependency Ceiling (Source MOM).
So, can a $800/month dead-end job suddenly carries so much promise and the pay structure miraculously improves by more than three times just because the company could not retain enough dishwashers?
Transitioning has all along also received requests for F & B staff from our local restaurants here but unfortunately we are unable to accede to their requests as I don’t expect our well-educated PMETs to take up such low-end work after studying so hard in our state-renowned universities.
However, in this tough competitive work environment whereby even masters degree graduates have to drive cabs in order to survive here, there is certainly no shame if our graduates take to dishwashing to make ends meet.
Moreover, I have seen many fresh-faced young graduates performing waiter duties while they look around for a better job here in Sydney.
Some have taken to being cashiers or work as stakers in supermarkets as they are paid a minimum wage.
As there is a minimum wage of $15 an hour, one can survive at least for the short to medium term if he waits on tables or carry out low-end menial work.
The same can’t be say of our waiters in Singapore as most of them are poorly paid and thus are staffed mainly by young fresh foreigners.
The Sakae Sushi’s experience has shown to the country that if you pay the workers well there will be takers – however shitty or low-end the jobs may be.
We don’t really have to depend on the foreigners totally for our F & B sector if only employers can pay our locals adequately.
Also, all eyes will be on Sakae Sushi if they will honour their word to pay our dishwashers $3000 a month…
Truly, I am tempted to send in my resume.
Written by: Gilbert Goh