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MOM investigating firms over sudden termination of contracts, salary arrears for some Covid-19 vaccinators

SINGAPORE — Two companies that hired people to work as Covid-19 vaccinators and nurses are being investigated by the authorities after a group of these workers complained that they have not been paid over a month’s worth of salaries.

MOM investigating firms over sudden termination of contracts, salary arrears for some Covid-19 vaccinators

Some workers engaged as vaccinators and nurses at vaccination centres have made police reports after they have not been paid their salaries.

  • MOM and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management are investigating two firms
  • They are Megamanpower and Singapore Ambulance Association 
  • Nine vaccinators and nurses have filed complaints against them, saying they have withheld salaries
  • The workers said they are owed more than a month’s pay after their contracts were suddenly terminated in June
  • The two firms blame each other for the payment delays

 

SINGAPORE — Two companies that hired people to work as Covid-19 vaccinators and nurses are being investigated by the authorities after a group of these workers complained that they have not been paid over a month’s worth of salaries.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) said that to date, they have received nine complaints from members of the public who were engaged as vaccinators and nurses at one of the vaccination centres, claiming that they have not been paid.

“MOM is investigating the companies involved and determining if other vaccinators and nurses are similarly affected. MOM and TADM will assist those affected to resolve their payment issues,” the two agencies said in a statement.

The two companies at the centre of the dispute, Megamanpower and Singapore Ambulance Association, are each accusing the other of being at fault in this situation.

Singapore Ambulance Association claims that Megamanpower has not made payment for its services, which has led to the delays in paying the vaccinators and nurses, while Megamanpower said that it has fulfilled its payments and Singapore Ambulance Association is responsible for the workers’ salaries.

TODAY spoke to six of the affected workers, who worked between February and June at different vaccination centres, and are owed up to S$4,000 in unpaid salaries.

It is unclear how many nurses and vaccinators in all are owed outstanding pay, but those who spoke to TODAY said that 20 of them have started a chat group to keep each other updated on developments and six of these group members have filed police reports.

When asked, the police would only confirm that reports had been made but declined to say whether they were investigating.

The vaccinators, most of whom are registered nurses and medics, applied for the job when Megamanpower, a recruitment agency, put out an advertisement in February this year looking for vaccinators and nurses.

Some of them also joined through referrals from friends who had been recruited as vaccinators by Megamanpower.

Megamanpower, in turn, had been hired by Parkway Shenton healthcare group to supply manpower after the latter won a contract from the Ministry of Health to provide Covid-19 vaccination services.

When the vaccinators and nurses signed the employment contract, they noticed that Singapore Ambulance Association was named as their employer.

Some of the workers told TODAY that they were confused by this, but when they asked about it, they were told by staff members from Megamanpower that the two companies were working together or even “pretty much the same” entity.

A 20-year-old worker who declined to be named said: “I did find it weird that the contract was not under Megamanpower, but at that moment I didn’t think too much because (an employee from Megamanpower) brushed it off, saying that ‘Megamanpower and Singapore Ambulance Association are pretty much the same’, and there’s no need to worry.”

He added: “My impression was that these two companies were working together — that Megamanpower was settling schedules and administrative work, while SAA was settling payments.” 

But as early as a month into the role, the workers said that there were problems with salary payments.

A vaccinator who wanted to be known as just Ms S said: “We received our first month's pay super late… After we all started asking in the chat group, SAA started to transfer us our salaries via PayNow, and the money came from an unknown person’s number.”

Then, on June 7, the workers were told by a representative of Singapore Ambulance Association, via a message in a Telegram chat group, that the firm was terminating their contracts the next day and would pay them for work done up until June 8.

In the message, the firm's representative said that this had to be done because its client Megamanpower had not made payment to it for five months and its costs have "escalated to a point where it is no longer rational to support Megamanpower’s vaccination project any longer”.

The message also stated that the firm would be taking legal action against Megamanpower.

Since then, the contract workers said that they have not received their outstanding salaries.

The 20-year-old vaccinator who was told that Megamanpower and Singapore Ambulance Association were “pretty much the same” said that he is still owed S$1,800.

Ms S still has not been paid for the month of May and the first week of June, an amount totalling more than S$3,100.

Another vaccinator, Ms Andrea Goh, had a similar experience: “We received our salary for the month of April late and were not paid for the month of May and June.”

Ms Goh, 23, said that she is owed more than S$1,000 and another vaccinator who identified herself as just Ms Chania said that she is owed around S$4,000.

Mr Kenneth Wong, 21, said that he is still owed around S$1,700. He is frustrated and angry because he feels that there is not much he can do apart from making a police report.

“They seem to be avoiding us, because after they terminated our contracts, they blocked the whole chat group on Telegram... and (the Megamanpower representative) didn’t give us a reply on why our pay was delayed until we messaged him personally,” he added. 

Since then, one of the affected workers, Mr Sivachandran Murugasu, has taken to Facebook to air the group’s grievances.

In the post written under the pen name Xavier Fransis, the 39-year-old registered nurse said: “In such trying times, and with many out of work… (we) decided to work part-time doing vaccinations under these above-mentioned companies.

“Over the coming months, most vaccinators from Megamanpower jumped to other agencies due to low rates and late payments. And with insufficient manpower, Megamanpower decided to cease operations on June 7, 2021.”

DISPUTE BETWEEN FIRMS

In response to TODAY’s queries, Singapore Ambulance Association said that it was aware of Mr Murugasu’s post, adding that it contained “inaccuracies, misrepresentations and falsehoods”.

“Singapore Ambulance Association and Megamanpower are two separate companies,” it said in a statement.

“There was a collaboration between Singapore Ambulance Association and Megamanpower on several projects from February 2021 to around June 2021. Disputes have arisen between Megamanpower and Singapore Ambulance Association and the matter has been referred to lawyers.”

The firm continued to say that its access to the contractors’ records and timesheets, which had been uploaded and shared on Google Drive, was removed on June 3.

“As a result, there have been delays tabulating, verifying and making payments to contractors for work done for the months of May and June 2021,” it added.

Megamanpower has yet to make full payment of what is due to Singapore Ambulance Association, it claimed.

“(We intend) to pursue Megamanpower for recovery of the relevant funds and access to information. Simultaneously and at the same time, (we) will also endeavour to verify all outstanding sums due to the contractors and sort out the payments due.”

However, a Megamanpower representative said that the company has already paid Singapore Ambulance Association.

Megamanpower had approached the firm in February for a supply of medics and trained nurses to work as vaccinators, he said, and Megamanpower was the coordinator of the vaccinators’ schedules.

“Singapore Ambulance Association engaged the contractors. Megamanpower asked Singapore Ambulance Association to supply (the contractors). For their wages, they had to approach Singapore Ambulance Association,” he added.

He also said that Megamanpower had not restricted Singapore Ambulance Association's access to the workers’ timesheets and had sent the firm an email with all the timesheets on June 10.

“When the contractors raised their concerns of not being paid on time, Megamanpower did highlight these issues to Singapore Ambulance Association. Megamanpower does not know how much is owed and how many contractors are affected,” he said.

PARKWAY SHENTON'S RESPONSE

Mr Edmund Kwok, chief executive officer of Parkway Shenton, said on Saturday that the firm is working fully with MOM in their investigations into the matter.

He added that Parkway Shenton is unaware of the extent and amount that was unpaid to the contract workers, as their remuneration is a private matter between them and Megamanpower.

"Some of these staff did reach out to us earlier but we were only able to help highlight the matter to Megamanpower because we do not have a direct contractual relationship with the staff," he said. "After our contract with Megamanpower ceased, we did however reengage some of the same staff via a different recruitment agency to ensure that they did not lose employment due to the incident."

He also said that Parkway Shenton's contract was solely with Megamanpower, and none of the healthcare group's vaccination centres were ever involved in any contractual agreements with Singapore Ambulance Association. 

"We engaged Megamanpower to provide manpower to support our own staff in running one of these vaccination centres. They were recruited to fill a variety of roles including registration/screening counter staff, and vaccinators," he said.

He added that the contract with Megamanpower ceased in early June and payments for all invoices have been made to the recruitment agency.

In explaining why Parkway Shenton outsourced the supply of manpower to a recruitment agency, Mr Kwok said the healthcare group was contracted to operate the vaccination centres according to MOH specifications.

"It designs and sets up the workflow, manages medical logistics (like procurement and storage of the vaccine), and ensures high service and clinical standards at the vaccination centres it operates. To free up valuable medically trained staff to perform other more important tasks in the centre or at other medical facilities, these vaccination centres are operated by a combination of our own staff and supplementary manpower from external agencies."

He added: "The outsourcing of manpower is common practice across almost all vaccination centres in Singapore and allows for the more efficient deployment of medical resources as Singapore ramps up its vaccination programme in the midst of the pandemic."

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine vaccination MOM salary Megamanpower Singapore Ambulance Association

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