As a wood contractor in Singapore, we would like to share some of the ethical issues we face in Singapore. Construction industry in Singapore has a very poor standard of code of ethics. If you are making a living in the construction industry, you would have seen (or found yourself a victim of) two major unethical issues:

(1) Payment Delay

Delay of due payments is something that most, if not all, wood contractors have to deal with. While most direct owner customers pay reasonably promptly, corporate customers have a very huge tendency to delay payments, particularly balance payments after work is finished. There are a number of reasons why this is so, although very often the reasons are unfair, irrelevant and unethical to the vendor. Most common scenario is the main contractor or interior designer delaying balance payments to their wood subcontractors (who have finished their jobs well) because the main contractor or interior designer has not completed the official handover to the owner.

Illustration of Main Contractor relationship with Subcontractors

As an experienced wood subcontractor, one would expect his balance payments to be delayed by main contractors after completion of job. The reason for the delay is typically a delay in handover to the client, which more often than not is completely irrelevant to the wood subcontractor – it could be issues with the main contractor’s other works (steel, glass, lights, etc) that is delaying the handover. Worrying about their own ability to collect balance payments from the owner, main contractors often decide to hold payments to their respective subcontractors, even if the subcontractors are not guilty and responsible for any of the delay.

On a few occasions, customers may choose to not pay balance payments too, most likely thinking that they will get away with it. As contracts are drafted and executed privately only between client and the wood contractor, it is quite easy for clients to be tempted to abuse such privacy and not pay the remaining amount owed to the wood contractors. In the past several years, we have had to sue a few customers who did not respond to our balance payment enquiry for more than a month. After receiving a court order or a letter of demand from a lawyer, most of them quickly settled their debts within one working day despite being unresponsive for a long while.

(2)  Intentional Dishonesty

From time to time, there is so much intentional dishonesty going on in the construction industry from all levels. This could be in the form of companies underpaying employees, omitting certain parts of the contracts to get more favourable results, failing to ensure a safe environment for workers, deflecting blame of defects to other parties whenever possible, workers taking shortcuts at work, etc. This prevalent air of dishonesty may have something to do with the general lack of education levels achieved by the people running the industry. In Singapore where most people are reasonably educated, no locals are interested in taking on construction worker jobs. Many construction personnel may not even understand the word “ethics” and what it means as it is only a concept often discussed in schools at higher levels.