Nov 15, 2008

The UFOs Have Landed!

In the Straits Times today, the stunning headline news was that for the first time since God knows when, Singapore's labour chief actually spoke up for the workers.

Yes, instead of telling the workers to accept pay cuts or that they were obsolete and should go retrain themselves properly, he actually rebuked the organisation that laid them off:
ST Nov 14, 2008
DBS slammed for layoffs
By Sue-Ann Chia

LABOUR chief Lim Swee Say on Friday slammed DBS Bank for failing to consult its staff union on retrenching its workers or exploring other cost-cutting measures first.

'We are disappointed by the sudden decision,' he told The Straits Times when asked for his views on the DBS layoffs.

'There was no prior consultation with the DBS Staff Union. There was no exploration with the union on other cost reduction alternatives,' he said in an email reply on Friday.

Mr Lim, an advisor to the DBS staff union, said this lack of communication has weakened the trust between the bank's management and union.

Not mincing his words, he added: 'It is regretable because trust takes a long time to build but a short time to destroy.'

His criticism came on day 2 of DBS' retrenchment exercise, a move that has drawn flak from the public as being pre-emptive rather than reactive.

Mr Lim laid it on, saying: 'Perception on the ground is that DBS has decided on retrenchment as the first resort. Ground reaction is critical and highly negative.'

DBS is laying off 900 workers, with slightly more than half coming from Singapore and the rest from its Hong Kong office.
DBS CEO Richard Stanley must be feeling all panicky and nervous now. After all, this is Singapore you know.

The labour chief who just rebuked Richard also happens to be a minister from the ruling party headed by the Prime Minister who is married to the woman who runs the investment holding company that is the majority shareholder in the bank where CEO Richard Stanley is, after all, just an employee.

If Lim, Lee and Ho are all on the same page on this issue, then Richard's buttocks might soon get spanked behind closed doors ....

But of course it is possible that Lim, Lee and Ho are not exactly on the same page. Lim may just be feeling a little offended, because he, despite being the Secretary-General of NTUC and an advisor to the DBS staff union, wasn't consulted at all, before DBS retrenched a few hundred of its employees.

But can you really blame Richard? I mean, everyone knows that employee trade unions in Singapore are supposed to be docile, subservient and useless. How the heck was Richard to know that before retrenching the workers, he was supposed to consult the bank union ....


Fighting fit said...

Look at it this way, if the union had been consulted way ahead of time, the thing would have leaked out, and there would be widespread speculation, worry, and who knows what else could happen. Either way, it is a very tough thing to do. This is not speaking out for how the bank has done it now; there's no right way to do it.

singaporesportsfan said...

Hi Mr Wang

Do you hink that Jackson Tai has to share in the blame in the fiasco and do you think he saw this coming - and decided to split before the shit hit the ceiling fan?

After all, Richard Stanley only came on board DBS less than a year ago...

Cram Speaking said...

Maybe this is just another clever ploy to kick Richard out and get a local guy to head DBS. After all, in times of duress, nothing quite works like blaming the outsider for all your woes. Here's a white guy kicking out a few hundred Singaporeans without consulting the "union" chief, who's a minister! What else do you need?

Falcon said...

Actually hiring a foreigner has its advantages in times like these. He can be the fall guy if things get really nasty. Sort of like a safety valve. Before the heater tank explodes, the first safety valve is triggered, firing 900 senior employees. This should placate some of the aggrieved. If still does not work, then the very very senior member can go. Hopefully this will do the trick but will not answer the question why Singapore is the few priviliged countries to be saddled with such toxic minibonds.
I think there is enough collective wisdom in our government to know that there is something fishy here.
The fact that they are more than willing to just want to move on in this issue suggests there may be something that we do not know.

joe said...

Why don't Mr Lim thinks about how to help the retrenched staff?

And not to worry about who consult who first, this is secondary at this point in time.

Where is the priority for this guy? Get over the disappointment and get on with your job!

Alan Wong said...

On the surface it will appear that Lim is trying to speak out for the retrenched workers. But may I ask what is the use of speaking out for these workers when they are already re-trenched ? Can he direct DBS Bank to retract or stop such retrenchment ?

To me, it is just another political ploy to express his 'regrets'. Afterall what can you expect from a politician or even a minister to do ? Even our PM will say it is a commercial enterprise's decision, the govt cannot be seen to be interfering with their decisions.

If Lim have the guts to direct DBS to reverse their decision to retrench the workers, then I'll admire him. Otherwise, can he please stop acting like the Good Samaritan trying to tell the public that he is really concerned about the welfare of these retrenched workers.

To me, you are just one of those bloody Political Liar.

kelongkia said...

Black face white face.

How can he nvr cried this time?

numbernine said...

I don't find Lim Swee Say's actions strange. It's normal, especially when you consider that there might be elections around the corner.

What I find strange is that a Temasek company is doing this. I have seen instances where retrenchments are conducted, the unions are pliant, but there is ample time and warning given, so that even though people do not know the exact list of retrenched staff people can make their own arrangements immediately.

The retrenchments could not take place without the compliance of Ho Ching. Her portfolio has suffered with the Merrill Lynch thing and somebody has to pay for the mistakes.

Another interpretation is that this is a political ploy to divert attention away from the toxic products that DBS has been dumping on its customers lately. The message is that "you customers, by giving us problems, are causing innocent employees to lose their jobs. Please do not bother us with your problems."

As said, in the heat of the moment when everybody is busy fighting battles (every bank CEO, competent or not, is almost certainly very busy these days) communication breaks down. Lim Swee Say could be absolutely sincere in venting his frustrations that it has become a little more difficult for PAP to call for early elections.

As I see it, the PAP are considering calling for elections. The rumour circulated is the first step to assess how people are going to react to that decision. This is a genuine decision they have to make, because if you hold the elections in 2010, 2 years into what is expected to be a long recession, the PAP will lose a lot of seats. Whereas now there has never been a better time, just tell people you want a "mandate" and like the true suckers they are they will respond favourably.

The other thing that an astute politician like Lim Swee Say would not have overlooked is that bankers are an extremely unpopular bunch these days. Whereas it used to be the case that retrenchments are seen as an inevitable measure to "achieve better economic results" today there is an increasing realisation that regardless of the economic climate, the senior management pigs that run the show are going to gorge themselves silly on their fat paychecks.

What we need is an angry mob to go down to their district 10 houses and smash the place.

David said...

Mr Wang, do you know what is the meaning of wayang?

Haven't you heard or seen that Lim Swee Say shed tears publicly?

Having you heard that he also said he feels very rich because of his CPF? Do you know what is the CPF fraction of his total pay?

yamizi said...

Despite the slamming, the retrenchment is still going to take place isn't it?

numbernine said...

I have since read that the retrenchment targets a disproportionately larger segment of the senior managers. So be it. Many of whom have probably got to their level by selling shit to people. They deserve to get fucked. It makes sense that you are trimming that sort of fat away. If you're high up enough in that organisation, you don't belong to a union and you're on your own. You can always get a job elsewhere.

ThinkForMeSingapore said...

The term is known as "posing".
Like many other people who have commented here have said, does it really matter what LSS says? Unless he is able to bring back those 900 jobs, all he is doing is offering a public condolence, with a little acting, showing displeasure. However, is LSS acting even more than we can tell? Does he/DBS/Temasek really want these 900 jobs back?

The term can also be known as "acting".
How are we to know that these people were not let got off so that buyers of high notes will no longer have anybody to blame?
"singaporesportsfan" asked if Jackson Tai has to share the blame? No, he should not be sharing the blame, he SHOULD BE THE ENTIRE BLAME. Richard Stanley took the job only about 8 months ago, by then, all the damage that we see, had already been done. Richard Stanley is but a scapegoat. Richard Stanley will take the fall, and will be handsomely compensated for taking the fall. Richard Stanely (and I could be wrong) couldn't have been that stupid to take this position without actually smelling what was going on. Jackson Tai and maybe some (maybe all) of the 900 job-discontinued employees are all part of the cast of this major production called "Don't blame me, I don't work there.".

When you next look for an RM who cheated you, he/she won't be there. What do you do next? Nothing. We, as individuals, have no guts to take on DBS as an entity and so... the case rests.

Like "david" commented. It is all but WAYANG. Like in all WAYANGS, like in all ACTING jobs, the more one can convince you that whatever you are watching is TRUE, the more successful their acting job. They couldn't hire Will Smith and Brad Pitt to do this whole show, so, they hired LSS and Richard Stanley. And all in all, I think they have done a pretty commendable job... ACTING.

kilroy said...

Me thinks all the "plots" mentioned here are too "thick" to be likely...the new CEO is merely doing what all new CEOs do...clear the decks so that he has a lower base to build profits from and thereby show good performance the next year . Note that he has increased provisions also. Together with this retrenchment exercise which incidentally cannot be cheap since apparently about 35 are at SVP or MD level and if below 55 will get up to 25 mths salary ( assuming average monthly pay is 20k that will be a cool 500k each! ) there will be a nice lopping off of the profits for this year.

David said...

Whatever it is, the folks who bank with them suffered. Ever since POSB was merged with DBS. ATMs were reduced, queues became longer, and toxic products pushed and sold.

Fox said...

"Mr Lim, an advisor to the DBS staff union, said this lack of communication has weakened the trust between the bank's management and union."

I don't understand the point of having trust between the bank's management and union. Let's suppose the management violates the trust of the union repeatedly. What is the union going to do? Stage a walkout or work slowdown?

moomooman said...

Perhaps, none of the retrenched workers belong to the union, which is why union was not being informed.

I think only entry level staffs or tellers are in the Union.

MDs don't need to be in the Union if they are already earning like 300k a year.

The said...

/// Cram Speaking said...
Maybe this is just another clever ploy to kick Richard out and get a local guy to head DBS. ///

Don't think so. Problem is, with the FT head, those who are chopped are overwhelmingly local. So far, only 2 foreign non-talents were chopped. Worse still, there might be an influx shittybankers later on to replace those senior locals who are axed.

young-pap said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
young-pap said...

DBS is doing just fine, and so is the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation.

So, please, please, do not anyhow associate the banks' axing of staff, refusal to return money etc, with anything bad. They are doing great. Really!

Anonymous said...

Who is Suay Suay to tell Ho Jinx what to do? He is but only an employee, a civil servant, a pet who has to obey every command of his master and mistress.

Does he not know, or pretended not to know, that Ho Jinx is the boss of the boss of Damned Boastful Schemer?

Does he not know that the Jinx is the World's 3rd Most Powerful Woman?

Does he not know that the Jinx is also the ONLY One who can pull the ears of the Pinky Minister?