SAKAE SUSHI : SETTING THE TREND FOR INCREASING WAGES OF LOW INCOME EARNERS

sakae

BARELY a day after Sakae Sushi confirmed an offer to pay dishwashers $3,000 a month, some 300 enquiries and applications have poured in.

They came after the restaurant chain made headlines for saying it could not get workers at that salary, which is more than twice what an average dishwasher earns.

Yesterday, the company gave more details while urging only "serious" applicants to contact it. "We would like to emphasise that this position includes other cleaning responsibilities, not just dishwashing, and is very physically demanding," it said in a Facebook post.

Brand and communications manager Gregg Lewis said the dishwashers need to work 12 hours a day, six days a week - from 10.30am to 10.30pm with breaks. This differed slightly from the nine hours a day that Sakae Sushi chief Douglas Foo had told the media previously.

Yesterday, Mr Lewis explained that the company had discussed several scenarios with different work hours, and had decided on the final job scope only late on Wednesday night.

"What Douglas mentioned previously was based on one of the scenarios tested that was found not to be feasible due to crowd volume," he said.

Sakae Sushi's offer, which emerged last week, created a buzz among netizens.

The latest news about a 72-hour week sparked a fresh round of debate, with some netizens wondering whether it flouted the Employment Act. This says workers cannot work for more than 44 hours a week, excluding overtime and breaks.

Mr Foo said last night that the $3,000 package includes overtime pay for the extra hours and does not contravene the Act.

Sakae Sushi has more than 40 dishwashers, including some locals working such hours, he said. It pays contractors $2,300 to $2,900 for each, though he reckons workers take home far less after the contractors take a cut.

"They're working so hard. I wish they could be paid the amount that we are paying to the contractor," he said. "I feel locals should be under direct hire..."

Sakae Sushi had tried to hire dishwashers directly, but faced problems with inconsistent attendance and workers calling in sick or resigning unexpectedly.

Mr Foo said that for a start, it could hire around five more dishwashers on the $3,000 salary.

Meanwhile, the offer continued to draw attention.

Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam commented on Facebook: "Sakae Sushi boss says they are offering $3,000 per month for dishwashers but can't find people?"

Said National Trades Union Congress deputy secretary-general Ong Ye Kung: "I am surprised at $3,000 there are no takers."

He added that its Employment and Employability Institute is contacting the chain and other big hirers to help them.

Mr Zainudin Nordin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, lauded Sakae Sushi for paying its dishwashers a salary comparable to its managers and supervisors. "If one company can do it, it just shows it's not impossible."