Twelve Cupcakes is recently in the limelight again. If you have not heard, The Real Singapore (‘TRS’) has published a series of entries claiming that Twelve Cupcakes is exploiting foreign labour – which TRS says is based on conversations with a Filipino supervisor, and subsequently an entry (I presume from the same supervisor) which reads like a letter to TRS.

The entires claim, among other things, that Twelve Cupcakes pays their foreign workers $3 per hour, a baker from China earns only $800 per month, and foreign workers get less off-days than local staff.

My first reaction to reading this article is – SURE or not?

After all, the staff at Twelve Cupcakes usually look quite happy, and I recall always seeing young local females fronting the shop. Besides, I am skeptical that anyone would work for $3 per hour in F&B, or anywhere in Singapore for that matter!

I personally find it alarming, very alarming, that some take what is written on the website as the whole truth. Don’t we need to verify some facts and figures, or at least get the other side of the story before we exclaim “I am so going to boycott that cupcake shop forever”?

I felt there was definitely more to this, and decided to write to Daniel Ong CEO of Twelve Cupcakes and The Real Singapore. I also checked with NTUC and MOM with regards to foreign employment issues.

The Real Singapore Side Of The Story
This is from an email interview with ZhiXin from TRS Editorial Team: “We were first contacted by a local part time worker complaining about Twelve Cupcakes changing their shifts from 2 people to 1 and they are not allowed to visit the toilet.

After publishing her story, another outlet manager who is a foreign worker contacted us through email to tell us about her story. You can find her story on our site her name is Estrada. We talked to her on the phone and she was crying and seems very depressed which is why we decided to publish her full story.

We also talked to 2 other former employees of Twelve Cupcakes and both of them have very negative experience at twelve cupcakes. One of the girl is a part-timer called Gina saying they are paid only $3/hr with no overtime pay. Basically all the workers said Daniel Ong’s rebuttal to the original TRS article about working 8 hours a day only and with heaps of overtime pay is false.”

Daniel Ong’s Side Of The Story
In a phone interview with Daniel, he revealed that the news was likely to be created by a disgruntled former employee .

Daniel openly shared he had 13 foreign staff out of the 120 plus workers he employed, of which 8 are from the Philippines – and all reflected they were happy to be working with Twelve Cupcakes. A local outlet supervisor would earn about $1,800 to $2,200, while a supervisor from a foreign country would get about $1,400 – that is excluding additional allowance, lodging and the extra MOM levy.

All his workers from China are part-time cleaners and assistant bakers, who get at least $1100 in take-home pay, not including bonus and incentives.

According to Daniel Ong, Twelve Cupcakes pays about $600 in levy per foreign worker, so money-wise; employing a foreign worker can be more expensive than a local staff.

I have spoken to many F&B owners. Many have said the same thing. After factoring in the levy, it can be more costly to employ a foreign worker than a local one. Some business owners may still choose to do so because they perceive, whether rightly or wrongly, that foreigners are generally more proactive, trustworthy and willing to work hard. Others do so because they simply cannot find enough local workers to fill the positions.

Many times, the truth speaks for itself. If workers are indeed exploited, it would be reflected in the services, high turnover, and even products. You know a service staff is smiling genuinely or not.

Some have said Twelve Cupcakes is doing this for publicity. Seriously and logically, I do not think any F&B business owners would choose such a seemingly insane way of marketing. Daniel Ong revealed that sales of their cupcakes did drop by about 10%, and some ex-customers feedback that they won’t buy from a shop which exploits foreign labour.

In addition, I did a check on MOM guidelines. Based on the service industry rate, if a company hires 10-25% foreigners out of the total workforce, the levy is $400 or $500. A $600 levy is applied when foreign workers constitute more than 25% of the company’s workforce.

Accordingly to TRS’s first article written by the contributor Vettel (presumably a fan of their cupcakes), he/she went around different Twelve Cupcake shops to speak to supervisors and baking staff. This is entirely different from their email reply to say they were “first contacted by a local part time worker complaining about Twelve Cupcakes”.

From this experience, I have come to realise how important it is to practice information literacy skills, a simple check with three sources had already unveiled inconsistencies and led me to question how credible some online pieces really were.

We get so much information every day, some of them are rumours and half-truths that are spread around especially on social media. Yet some of us are treating as though they are true, and getting angry over nothing.

Why are we so fast to slam and judge?

Why are we looking at one photo or video, most likely taken out of context, and criticizing what we perceive has happened. Personally, I really feel this is becoming quite frightening. (I don’t even know when someone will say something out of nothing about me.)

A simple way to avoid all this misinformation is to apply the 4 ways of S.U.R.E to content that you come across. S.U.R.E stands for Source, Understand, Research and Evaluate, a simple acronym that the National Library Board has recently come up with as part of their National Information Literacy Programme to make Information Literacy skills easy and accessible for everyone. (* To find out more about S.U.R.E – Source, Understand, Research and Evaluate. )

As news consumers, we also should be responsible enough to get information from various sources, ascertain there is backed by certain evidence and research before evaluation. Before we click Likes or Share and say “This person is so terrible. Perhaps ask why we are judging others without seeing both sides of the story.”

As I am typing this, there is another social media furore against main stream media. While publishers definitely have to execute journalistic responsibility, we news consumers also has to be responsible in reading and sharing.


  1. Daniel Ong's response is full of flaws too. His pay to his workers does not add up and the hours that his workers work also keeps switching from 11 hours to 9 hours to 8 hours in his response to TRS.

    I honestly think Daniel Ong is full of shit, from his FB post last time complaining about his neighbour renovation, to his complaint about Straits Times asking him to pay for using the paper without their permission.

    He is also a shit stirrer himself.

  2. Daniel Ong's response is full of flaws too. His pay to his workers does not add up and the hours that his workers work also keeps switching from 11 hours to 9 hours to 8 hours in his response to TRS.

    I honestly think Daniel Ong is full of shit, from his FB post last time complaining about his neighbour renovation, to his complaint about Straits Times asking him to pay for using the paper without their permission.

    He is also a shit stirrer himself.

  3. Melanie Tan = The Real Singapore's self proclaimed admin and possible fake account of Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, a washed out potty mouthed politician.

  4. Dear Singaporeans, we should be alarmed that people are writing of labour abuse with such big differential in wage as claimed between the article in TRS versus the CEO of Twelve Cupcakes.

    As readers, there is no way to verify unless full evidence is displayed. Till then, it is one person versus the next person. No one is the winner, but the loser is? Some will say, the company, some say the informers. To me, the losers are Singaporeans.

    Singaporeans condone labour abuse as we watch this like a drama, unaware that to be paid $800 is unsustainable in expensive Singapore. And why should a foreign worker be paid less than local for the same job? Common sense should tell that it is not right. Singaporeans have allowed our country to pay ridiculous low wages to hardworking people. Of course there will be unhappy people.

    FYI, i have verified that some of the information is true. You guys can have fun figuring this out. Even if you believe Daniel's version that cleaners and bakers get $1.1k, ask yourself … is this sustainable? Ha!

  5. I have to say I don't really like the 'half story' ST employed on their news feed on FB, with the intention of either forcing you to subscribe to read the full story online or by buying a physical copy of the newspaper. It just gives the 'wrong' information as people can't judge for themselves what is the second half of the news and get a proper insight/picture of the reporting.

  6. Hi Daniel, honestly, I’m not surprised with this kind of news anymore. Things like this do happen and MOM doesn’t really do much if someone complains specially if the company that’s being complained about let’s say is a multinational company.

    Going back to TC, to give you an idea how dirty things work in F&B sometimes, do you even know that some of the big hotel companies here in Singapore usually hire students overseas to do their “on the job training” just to save labour costs etc? Imagine the menial pay they get monthly (the entire course is about 6mos-1yr. Depends on the contract). I’m not going to name names of the hotel but you will be surprised which hotels around the island do this.

  7. people who believe "The Real Singapore" news is like a kid eating ice cream thinking it's good for him. it's online losers like abovementioned and "Yahoo SG News"(not limited to those two) that causes our authentic Singapore Government to introduce online gatekeeping so we as citizens in the here and now won't see news like blind sheep. that's the good and bad of retrieving info online-easily accessible yet similarly doubtful.

    there are already quite a number of Singaporeans who can identify an online article's credibility via its source, writer, writer's circle of friends and source's objective. let's hope the general public will acquire the skills soon too. 12 cupcakes is not the first victim to such slander.

    let's step it up people you have more brains than you think you do.

  8. I think it's more important to be open to all source, and keeping an open mind to different opinion, rather than being judgmental and saying a particular source is untrue and fake. Even mainstream medias around the world are guilty of misinformation and misleading the masses once in a while too, if you think about it. ^^

  9. @Lam YongQuan same as u, i'm definitely open to all sources bro. but that doesn't mean we shud just believe what we see. i agree with what you're saying although what i mentioned wasn't judging but merely stating of my opinion. yes you're right though about mainstream media.. reinforcing that fact would simply be to compare Al Jazeera and Channel 5 news. stark difference so believe me when i say i know what you mean ^.^


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