Stickies Bar Employees Allege Late Salary Payments Since Mid-2023 & Mass Terminations Amid Closures

Stickies Bar HR & Finance Employees Speak Out Amid Recent Closures

Following the abrupt closure of several Stickies Bar outlets, employees of the popular nightlife spot are now claiming that there have been recurrent issues with late salaries since as early as mid-2023.

Those who spoke to MS News in an interview on 29 Jan said the situation got progressively worse from November.

They also said they are having difficulties with daily expenses and securing other employment due to recent media attention.

Not only are they unable to continue life as per usual, some are worried about the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations now that they no longer have a regular income.

Stickies Bar director confirmed business is under interim judicial management

On 15 Jan, Stickies Bar closed its outlets in Aljunied and Keng Cheow Street, laying off more than 30 employees.

Stickies Bar Abruptly Closes Outlets, Employees File Complaints Of Late Wages

One of the directors of the company, Norman Then, told the media at the time that Stickies has appointed an interim judicial manager (IJM).

He also responded to queries from MS News on 26 Jan, confirming that Stickies has engaged insolvency practitioner Mr Faroq Mann from Mann & Associates as its interim judicial manager.

This is to protect the going concerns of the business and to look out for the best interest of all the creditors including the staff, he said.

“Stickies is determined to do right by all stakeholders and we hope to have the public’s support by their patronage at our outlet that is still running at Dhoby Ghaut.”

The Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) have confirmed that they received claims from 37 employees regarding outstanding wages and late CPF contributions.

Company had issues paying staff since 2023

A, a HR staff at Stickies who wants to remain anonymous, said that the company was late in paying their employees for a large part of 2023. 

“The pay started coming in a week late, and eventually, finding our salary was like playing peek-a-boo,” she said wryly. She has worked at Stickies since July 2022.

Source: Unsplash, for illustration purposes only.

One of Stickies’ finance personnel, who wishes to go by B, concurred.

“I joined in March 2023, but I could see in the books that the housekeeping of such matters has always been on the borderline.” 

B highlighted that by law, a company has to pay their employees within seven days after the end of the salary period.

However, there were instances where Stickies paid its staff later than this window due to cashflow issues, she disclosed. 

“Towards mid- to end-2023, it started to seem like it was progressively getting harder to meet the deadline,” B added. 

As HR and finance are on the frontlines of wage-related matters, A explained that it is precisely because of this that they are also “bearing the brunt” of the rest of the staff’s feedback, on top of not receiving their own pay. 

“Some employees might think that it is HR and finance who are not paying them, but actually it was beyond all our control.”

Stickies owners reportedly told employees investors were coming in & told them to bear with the late salaries

Initially, the staff tried to be understanding of the situation and trusted that the directors, Norman Then and Chong Sing Yong (Sino), would eventually pay them, A said. 

Source: Norman Then (left) on Facebook and Sino Ethan Chong on Facebook

She added that many employees decided to stay with the company because the bosses would urge them to bear with the situation as they are getting new investors onboard.

A recalled a particular incident involving wages for November 2023. She claimed some staff received November’s salary on 4 Dec, while others received it on 18 Dec. 

“Norman actually told us to be patient as they are expecting investors in January, and that they’ll try to pay us early with a nice, small bonus before Christmas for taking on this hardship with us. But, after that, when we’d ask when the salaries were coming in, it was always ‘Don’t know’.” 

Later, the company heads reportedly told staff to expect their December pay on 8 Jan 2024. 

“8 Jan came, they said: ‘Sorry, no money. Please help us, work hard in the outlets and push sales so that we can earn the money to pay you on 15 Jan.’”

Images courtesy of A.

Directors became uncontactable after announcing the company is now under IJM

A continued: “15 Jan came and Norman sent a message saying: ‘Sorry guys, we are under IJM, Sino and I no longer have control of the company finances so we can’t pay you.’”

Image courtesy of A.

According to staff MS News spoke to, Then and Chong reportedly started ignoring messages from staff members when they chased for their wages. 

Image courtesy of A.

When MS News asked whether Stickies had someone of authority above HR or finance to keep upper management in check, A and B simultaneously replied: “No.”

Image courtesy of A.

“Nobody has that kind of transparency,” the former added. 

Stickies Bar started to terminate employees en masse at the beginning of Jan 2024, said staff

Prior to the employees finding out that the company had gone under IJM, A claimed that Then cancelled a Zoom meeting that was supposed to take place on 2 Jan, and terminated the entire HQ team, except the HR department.

This group comprises departments such as marketing, e-commerce, facilities, finance, as well as some from operations and kitchen.

Image courtesy of A.

“I don’t know how they planned the terminations, but they did not use the term ‘retrenchment’. They only said that the company was not performing well and they could not continue the employees’ services. They said it was ‘restructuring’ and not ‘retrenchment’,” B said.

Image courtesy of B.

A and C, another member of the HR team, further alleged that affected employees were asked to resign, and only those who did not were issued termination letters. 

MS News has reached out to Then and Chong regarding the allegations, but did not receive any response despite repeated attempts.

Sole breadwinner & mother of 6 who is on maternity leave has postnatal depression from the pressure

In light of the sticky situation, the employees have found themselves with little to no income and are struggling to make ends meet.

Source: Google Maps

A explained that she is on maternity leave, and was initially expecting to receive her salary. However, the mother of six and sole breadwinner of her family has yet to receive any of her pay and CPF contributions amounting to around S$18,300.

“I’m facing really hard times now. I have six kids. I’m on maternity leave. My doctor has referred me to a postnatal doctor because going through this has put me into postnatal depression,” she said.

“I can’t get financial aid because I’m technically still employed. I can’t apply to get maternity pay from the Government or apply to another job because I am still employed. My hands are tied, and I’m struggling to feed my family.” 

Worried about expenses for upcoming Chinese New Year festivities & new house

B also expressed that she does not know how she is going to get through the upcoming festive period if the situation does not improve.

Source: iStock, for illustration purposes only.

She disclosed that she is owed around S$21,100, inclusive of salaries from December 2023, January 2024, as well as other funds such as leave encashments and claims.

“Chinese New Year is just next week. What am I going to provide? Have [the directors] ever thought about this? No. They only care about having a nice Chinese New Year themselves, how about the rest of the staff? How about our foreign workers who need to pay rent? But we’ve got nothing to pay with right now we are living on other people’s money.” 

On top of that, the finance personnel is expecting a new house this year, and is unsure how she is able to find money for the down payments and renovation costs.

Grandmother who used to take grandchild out for weekly shopping trips now unable to afford it

On the other hand, C takes on shifts as a relief teacher at a tuition centre her relative owns to earn some spare cash. The former HR personnel did not share how much Stickies Bar owes her.

C is a mother of three and grandmother to three grandchildren, one of whom is a four-year-old girl she has been looking after since she was a month old.

Her husband also has to take care of his ageing mother, so C would contribute to the family finances when she had a regular income.

Source: Unsplash, for illustration purposes only.

“The things I used to do for myself, I can’t do it anymore. Sometimes, when I think about the sacrifices I have to make, I’d break down and cry — but I’d rather do it for the children,” she said.

Previously, when she had a stable income, C would take her four-year-old granddaughter out shopping for clothes and toys on a regular basis.

“She would ask me: ‘Amma, are we going to buy shoes? Are we going to buy toys?’ These are things I used to do weekly with her, and now I can’t buy anything. It really breaks my heart.”

Stickies Bar earnings ‘dismal’ since IJM, supposedly due to Coldplay concerts & ‘negative publicity’

On 31 Jan, staff members received a letter from the IJM on 31 Jan regarding the new management.

In the letter seen by MS News, it stated that the IJM is “presently not adopting any pre-existing employment contracts that [they] may have had with the company. This includes [their] current employment contract.”

The letter advised those to whom the company owes money to file a “Proof of Debt” to make a claim for the amounts.

It also prohibited employees from disclosing any confidential information about the company.

The letter further claims that the recent Coldplay concerts and the “negative publicity surrounding the company that was reported in the press recently” are the reasons behind its “dismal” earnings since the IJM took over on 24 Jan.

As such, the company is unable to commit to the full salaries of those working for Stickies from 24 Jan onwards, and that “haircuts” may be possible.

Concerned about job prospects & how media coverage may affect them securing new roles

B pointed out that it would be difficult to find a job after this due to the gap in their resumes. No one, she said in frustration, seems to understand their predicament.

C similarly stated that the recent media attention has affected her ongoing job search, as potential employers are reluctant to offer a job due to Stickies Bar’s current reputation.

She is hoping by speaking out and telling their side of the story, more employers would be open to helping the staff of Stickies secure new jobs.

B added: “I hope that other employers understand our situation, and give the Stickies Bar employees a chance. This is not what we wanted — we wanted to grow with the company, but it’s the company that let us down.”

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