The news has been spreading like wild fire and the smoke and haze is making it a tad foggy.
We are talking, of course, about Singapore-owned sushi restaurant chain Sakae Sushi’s recruitment of dishwashers and its offer of a S$3,000 monthly salary that has set aflame the “passion” of Singaporeans who seem to be mostly unhappy with their jobs and looking for better ones.
The online furore apparently began after its CEO Douglas Foo was interviewed by a radio station and talked about how difficult it is to hire people for cleaning jobs and to wash dishes. He spoke on how even when told of how tough the work is, job applicants stoutly said they were up to the challenge but later found it too demanding and quit. He then said he was looking to hire dishwashers at $3,000 a month.
No one believes – or wants to believe - it is for real no matter how much it has since been reported in the media and online platforms, including the company’s own Facebook page.
Yesterday, Sakae Sushi’s communications team posted on the page: “We would like to confirm that we are recruiting Singaporean or PR dishwashers for SGD 3000. Interested applicants and for enquiries, contact us via email: email@example.com or call us at 6438 6629. We look forward to hearing from you.”
Even then, the first of the now more than 220 comments were: “Are you sure?”
Who can blame them, when the perception of the “market rate” for a dishwashing or cleaning job at food centres and eating outlets has been at or below S$1,000 a month.
So we asked Mr Gregg Lewis, branding and communications manager at Sakae Holdings, to respond to some of the burning questions people wanted to know.
Interview in Q&A
1. When was the job advertisement put up? Or was the topic broached during a press interview and CEO Douglas Foo was just talking about challenges he faced?
The topic was raised during the press interview. Upon its release, we have received an influx of enquiries and applications well before we could release an advertisement on it.
2. Is the job offer for real? If so, how have you advertised it?
Yes the job offer is for real, and we have acknowledged this FAQ on our Facebook fan page.
There has been no formal advertising on paid media as of now, however we are accepting applications all the same as we do have these roles to fill and since we have received an overwhelming response.
3. How has the response to the offer been so far?
It has been very overwhelmingly good. We have received quite a number of applications (about 300).
4. Why is Sakae Holdings paying this salary? How long has the company been looking for cleaners/dishwashers?
It's a physically daunting role requiring the washer to be standing the whole day. It's not easy and there is very little career advancement opportunities, if any.
If we were to engage a contractor or agency, we would find ourselves paying about the same amount and the foreign worker/dishwasher would be taking home much less as the agency would have a cut/commission for administrative duties and logistics and disbursements. So as a homegrown brand, we are trying to reach out directly to Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) to hire directly. This will benefit them as well with that kind of a salary, because it is equivalent to what we would normally pay a contract agency to manage cleaners or dishwashers.
Over a year, we have been trying to figure out the best way forward, to cover this under our headcount. So we had a pilot programme where we tried to hire our own dishwashers, a small pool of people. They didn’t last very long. There were challenges hiring our own dishwashers. People fall ill, we need to find someone to stand in, etc.
We have about 30 dishwashers including this pool and those from the contractor. We are in the midst of working towards a framework to handle this.
5. Are the 10 cleaners you are looking for just for one outlet?
Ten is just an estimate. We may require more as we are expanding with the opening of new outlets. And no, it's not for just one outlet.
6. How many dishwashers do you need per outlet?
I cannot disclose this as we are still fine-tuning the details and reviewing applicants.
7. What were the reasons for cleaners leaving the company?
It's a physically daunting role and it's definitely not for everyone. By offering S$3,000 a month, we are hoping to attract and be able to retain personnel who would fit the role.
8. What is the job scope for the cleaner? What are the working hours like? Is it a fulltime job?
It will be from 1030 to 2230, that will be the working hours. However, it includes breaks and mealtimes. They will NOT be working the 12 hours straight. It is a full-time job, but we are also exploring the feasibility of employing part-timers as well. It will be a six-day work week.
We are not trying to sensationalise this in the media, so we don’t want to reveal too many details since it is a human resource matter. We will talk to serious applicants on a one-to-one basis, and we will give these details to interested applicants when they come down and discuss at interviews. But yes, the jobscope will include general cleaning.
9. Are there any requirements for the applicants? You mentioned they would be standing long hours.
As long as they feel they are up to it, we will accept the applications and review them. We need to be fair and we do not discriminate in terms of age. Someone who has experience as a dishwasher would be good, but we also welcome anyone who doesn’t.
10. Many who have seen the news and the offer are wary that there may be some catch. Are there any hidden terms?
The misconception and doubts are probably due to the "S$3,000" and "dishwasher" being taken out of context. We want to put things back into perspective. As I mentioned, this is around the amount being used for engaging contractors who handles the workers washing dishes. So we may as well include Singaporeans or PRs into our headcount and allow them to benefit from it, as I said earlier in Question 4.
11. Does the dishwasher get the same benefits as other employees? If so, is it possible to give us one or two examples of these benefits?
I can't disclose this, however as there is not much possibility for career advancement for the dishwashing role, it may be justified to offer this amount.
12. Critics have also said that it is a publicity stunt to raise the profile and business of the company. Is there any truth to this?
We would like to acknowledge that, yes, it is a genuine recruitment exercise. We are quite fascinated ourselves that it has generated this much interest.
13. What about the view that Sakae Sushi is “spoiling the market” with that pay offer?
We would rather not comment at this point.
Read also our report: Sakae Sushi's job offer shed light on job expectations