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Authorities slam Singapore Ambulance Association for not taking full responsibility in payment dispute with vaccinators

SINGAPORE — The authorities have reprimanded a healthcare firm that had hired vaccinators and then failed to pay them, saying among other things that Singapore Ambulance Association has not taken full responsibility to pay the vaccinators directly.

Authorities slam Singapore Ambulance Association for not taking full responsibility in payment dispute with vaccinators

A man receiving a vaccine at a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Singapore in March 2021.

  • At least 15 vaccinators and nurses filed complaints against Singapore Ambulance Association and a recruitment firm
  • The workers were not paid their salaries 
  • MOM then suspended the work pass privileges of two men associated with Singapore Ambulance Association
  • Instead of paying the workers, it sent a cheque to MOM and expected MOM to distribute the salaries
  • The authorities also accused it of introducing "new issues" to justify its refusal to pay workers on time 

 

SINGAPORE — The authorities have reprimanded a healthcare firm that had hired vaccinators and then failed to pay them, saying among other things that Singapore Ambulance Association has not taken full responsibility to pay the vaccinators directly. 

In a statement to TODAY on Wednesday (Sept 29), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) said that Singapore Ambulance Association had sent an “unsolicited cheque” payable to MOM, with the expectation that MOM or TADM would then distribute the payments to the vaccinators.

The authorities said that they have returned the cheque and reminded the firm of its responsibility to resolve the matter with its vaccinators. 

The statement came after TODAY reported that several Covid-19 vaccinators had had their salaries withheld from them for almost three months. The workers had earlier filed complaints to the authorities against Singapore Ambulance Association and a recruitment firm for the non-payment of salaries, which prompted MOM and TADM to investigate. 

MOM then suspended the work pass privileges of two men linked to Singapore Ambulance Association — Mr Eugene Tok Yong Fa and Mr Whey Zhen Hui — for failing to pay at least 15 Covid-19 vaccinators their salaries. This means that they will not be able to hire people who need work passes approved by the ministry.

In its statement on Thursday, MOM and TADM revealed that on Sept 9, a TADM mediator had remonstrated to Mr Tok that the vaccinators should not be made to work for free and Mr Tok had remarked that the workers had “volunteered their services”. 

He also told the mediator that he would not pay the vaccinators who had filed claims with TADM and the small claims tribunals.

CONDUCT ‘DISAPPOINTING’

Responding to queries from TODAY earlier this month, Singapore Ambulance Association said that it had paid some of the vaccinators the salaries they are owed, but that it would not do so for those who had “ill advisedly” attempted to pursue the matter through TADM. 

In their statement, MOM and TADM noted the firm's claim that the intervention by TADM had complicated its attempt to settle the matter with the vaccinators, because claims filed with TADM would signify that the vaccinators were employees and the employers would have to pay workers money that goes into their Central Provident Fund accounts under the national social security system. 

However, they said that they disagreed with the firm on this point.

“TADM and MOM had informed Singapore Ambulance Association that a determination on whether the vaccinators were under employment contracts can only be made by a court or by a tribunal in the appropriate context.” 

Moreover, while TADM primarily mediates employment disputes, it does not turn away independent contractors who seek mediation, they added. 

Instead, TADM offers to contact the company involved to see if it can facilitate recovery of their payment. 

And in all of the cases that TADM has assisted, companies were generally cooperative and open to resolving differences with the independent contractors, they said. 

“The question of CPF payment was not raised in any of the vaccinators’ claims. All they wanted was to be paid for their work according to what Singapore Ambulance Association agreed with them,” MOM and TADM added. 

“Many of them are tertiary students and are doing this on a part-time basis. It is disappointing that Singapore Ambulance Association would introduce new issues, which were not even raised by the vaccinators, and to then use this to justify their refusal to arrive at an early settlement.”

CONTINUED NON-PAYMENT

TADM and MOM also noted that as early as Aug 5, Singapore Ambulance Association had started making payments to those vaccinators who did not file claims at the small claims tribunal or seek help from TADM.

But when a vaccinator already had a money order from the small claims tribunal in his favour, with an order to pay by Aug 23 this year, the firm did not pay by the agreed date.

The vaccinator was only paid after Parkway Shenton — which had hired Singapore Ambulance Association to provide the vaccinators — had indicated its intention to provide goodwill payments to them, and after MOM took enforcement actions against the firm and related parties.

While this “change in attitude” came about after Mr Tok and Mr Whey were informed that their associated companies would have their work pass privileges curtailed, the firm “continues to not take full responsibility for making payment to the vaccinators directly”, by sending the unsolicited cheque to MOM, the authorities said. 

“MOM has returned the cheque and informed Singapore Ambulance Association that it remains responsible for resolving its own obligations to all the vaccinators, including the vaccinators who had filed their claims at the small claims tribunal or sought help at TADM,” they added.

“It is not for Singapore Ambulance Association to dictate to MOM or the vaccinators irrelevant pre-conditions for payment.” 

Related topics

vaccination coronavirus vaccine salary Singapore Ambulance Association MOM TADM

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