Singapore

Mustafa Centre’s cost-cutting measures are fair, says MOM

Company had also declared all govt support received had been passed to workers: MOM

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has assessed that Mustafa Centre's cost-cutting measures, which include sending back foreign workers whose work permits have expired, are being implemented fairly.

MOM said it is in touch with the company and the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers' Union on the recent measures.

"We note that the company obtained its union's support on the cost-saving measures in view of the poor business situation," an MOM spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday.

The spokesman added that the ministry will continue to ensure that any further measures will be implemented fairly and reasonably.

The popular shopping landmark was in the news last week after its founder told employees that the company was unable to renew the work passes of its foreign workers, and would pay for their plane tickets home and one month's basic salary.

In a letter, founder and managing director Mustaq Ahmad also urged staff members to take on a second job, and said the company will discontinue their sustenance allowance to reduce payroll costs.

MOM's spokesman said the company had notified the ministry of its measures as early as March, when the Covid-19 outbreak was starting to gain momentum here.

It had also declared to MOM that all government support received had been passed to its employees, said the spokesman.

Mr Mustaq said in his letter that business had been badly affected by the pandemic. The mall closed on April 2 after it was linked to more than 100 Covid-19 cases and is believed to be the starting point of thousands of infections in foreign worker dormitories. After it reopened partially in May, it had to reduce operating hours and impose strict safe distancing measures.

Mustafa employees told ST last week that business is still far below pre-pandemic levels. Some workers have found temporary jobs as they wait to be called back to work.

Mr Mohamed Bhurari, 42, said he stopped work in April when his department, Mustafa Air Travel, closed during the circuit breaker period. He said his boss had warned him it might only reopen next year.

He has started working with a cargo company. "We understand that they (the travel agency) cannot open, so we have to wait. Hopefully, we will go back soon," he said.

Mustafa employees also said that some of them are rostered for work on a rotating basis.

An employee who declined to be named said his supervisor had told him to take a break from this month. He would have to wait for his turn to be called back to work.

"It's not just me, everyone is facing the same thing," said the work permit holder, who is now on the lookout for a new job.

A Mustafa Centre spokesman said the company is still working out the exact number of workers who will be affected and it is working with the union on temporary deployments for affected staff.

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