Nov 7, 2007

Realities of the Working World

ST Nov 7, 2007
Labour chief calls job-hopping, poaching short-sighted
By Marcel Lee Pereira

NO SOONER had Mr Kalaichellvan Krishna been crowned the service 'superstar' of the restaurant sector than new job offers began trickling in.

Minutes after the 26-year-old, who works for the Jack's Place steakhouse chain, was given the SuperStar Award at the Excellent Service Award (Exsa) ceremony held at the Raffles City Convention Centre yesterday, the poachers pounced.

They offered him jobs at other restaurants and hotels, but he turned them down politely.

His reason? His first loyalty is to his customers.

'They know me. Without them, I couldn't have won this award,' said Mr Kalaichellvan, an assistant manager at the chain's West Coast Recreation Centre outlet.

This business of loyalty and poaching of staff is something that concerns many employers these days.

The red-hot job market - figures announced last week put the jobless rate at 1.7 per cent, a 10-year low - is causing a scramble for talent and pushing up wages, and some companies are finding it hard to hold on to workers like Mr Kalaichellvan.

The problem is serious enough that Minister Lim Swee Say, from the Prime Minister's Office, who gave out awards to 10 winners in different sectors yesterday, touched on it during his speech at the ceremony.

Warning that the labour market is set to get tighter as major events such as the Formula One race come to Singapore, the labour chief urged service staff not to job-hop, and told employers to refrain from poaching.

'For workers to job-hop for a few dollars more during good times is a very short-sighted move, because the journey towards excellence is a long one,' he said

……… Turning to employers, he said: 'Every time we give out the awards, when the superstars appear in the newspapers, many employers will want to take a short cut and go after the winners, ask them what is their pay now, offer another 20 per cent.

'I think it's a very short-sighted move on the part of employers, and I hope that the Exsa superstars today, no matter how hard your competitors try to poach you, say no to them,' he added, to applause.
Isn’t this ironic? Minister Lim Swee Say tells you that it is very short-sighted to change jobs for the sake of earning more money. But for years and years, the PAP has been saying that if we don’t pay our ministers the world’s highest ministerial salaries (and give them further increases after that), then they’re all going to run away to join the oh-so-lucrative private sector.

If PAP ministers can’t be expected to serve out of a sense of loyalty to the nation, why would we expect people like Mr Kalaichellvan to serve out of a sense of loyalty to a steak restaurant.

But what do I know. Maybe loyalty to restaurants gets you further than loyalty to the nation these days. See how the Singapore Armed Forces discarded this old soldier (and he isn’t even that old):

ST Nov 6, 2007
Warrant officer asked to retire 5 years earlier

I WAS a regular serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). I served a total of 32 years, comprising full-time national service, reservist and regular service, from 1974-2006.

I was one of more than 200 regular servicemen and women in the Army who were notified in May last year that we would be given Special Early Transition. Some of the reasons cited included difficulty in offering us 'suitable jobs' in the long run, restructuring and possible 'stagnation'. We were given only six months to transit.

Having attained the rank of a warrant officer in 2001, it meant that I was able to serve till the compulsory retirement age (CRA) of 55. I transitted last November after just turning 50, five years short of the CRA.

The Control of Personnel Centre announced that we were not under-performers. I was still PES 'B' and I received my performance bonuses annually without fail. I had also met all other requirements, i.e., Individual Physical Proficiency Tests, Annual Trainfire Programme, Body Mass Index, and Annual Proficiency Knowledge Test.

I also did not have any discipline or medical problems. The latter meant that I was still combat fit and still deployable. There are some who have not conformed to one or more of these requirements and yet are still serving in the organisation.

Till today, I am still somewhat in a state of depression at how the organisation had overlooked all my years of loyal and dedicated service.

The SAF Management Philosophy states:

'The SAF is concerned with the well-being of its people and their families, the SAF values its people, looks after them and their families so that they can give wholehearted attention to their assigned duties.'

The Defence Minister himself said last year:

'Every soldier is precious to us. Every national serviceman, every operationally ready national serviceman, every regular who serves with us is a precious and valuable person.'

The organisation failed to honour its word to allow me and many others to serve till the CRA of 55. I have a wife and two young children still attending school.

Second Warrant Officer (Retired)
Henry Minjoot
“Special Early Transition”, ha. Sounds more like “Extended Notice Period” to me.

Dear Henry, I am sorry for you. There is an important lesson to learn here, and this is it – Singapore doesn’t really care about you. You have to care about you. And your family.

Next time – if there’s a next time – keep your eyes wide open for a good job opportunity. And as soon as it comes along, hop. Make it an IPPT gold-star award-winning Standing Broad Jump.

Regardless of what Lim Swee Say has got to say.


Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I cannot help but to comment. Disappointed with ALL the double standards and all. I agree with you totally! Good post.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, our ministers are so greedy with their lust for high salaries that they do not practice what they preach.

Singapore has thus become a very mercenary society, from top down. As for the soldier, I wonder if he got his gratuity or not. If he got it, then at least not too bad. If even that was denied, well......

But I agree with you, Mr Wang. In Singapore, one should always look out for themselves.


Anonymous said...

I am not exactly pro-pap, but I do not know what the government stand to gain by telling the employees and employers that. Could someone kindlt explain, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yet another case of blatant hypocrisy.

But don't blame the government, after all they are only trying their best to ensure their OWN survival and prosperity.

Law of the jungle, much?

Anonymous said...

I really hope all (Singapore born) Singaporeans can read your blog. Not everyone is able to see through the hypocrisy of our PAP government.

Anonymous said...

but hey, someone will say.
we are handling a huge singapore inc here. how can u compare this with a steak restaurant!
its govt talents we are talking abt. highly sought after by the pte sector.
unlike #1 in the service industry.

aint it true?

Elia Diodati said...

The ironic bit is how rising wages is cast as a problem, and not as a boon to employees in the labor force whose salaries (in my opinion) have historically been seriously depressed relative to other comparable labor markets, and especially in recent months are finding their personal budgets stretched increasingly thin by radical increases in consumer prices.

This really says a lot about the govt's priorities as Singapore Inc., not Singapore for Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...


The irony.. This entry really makes my day.. Thank you Mr Wang! :)

Anonymous said...

Our Government has lost the moral authority to preach. Never trust what she says.

Action speaks louder than word.

Anonymous said...

Another great post.

the mininster gives an incredibly light rap to employers, so much so that one may think he's representing an employer's association rather than a labour movement.

he should be berating employers for not providing good training, for their lack of loyalty and short-sightedness in working with employees.

a labour chief who is a nice politician and full of sweet sayings seems like a really bad idea.

James Chia said...

Public service is already a dead culture.

Anonymous said...

i mean why not job hop?..the market economy is run by self-interest, and due to the pursuit of self interest, things will fall quite into place right?, what Adam Smith refers to as the invisible hand?..but of course the market will fail but not in this case right?..i don't know..but i personally believe that if you think its wise to hop(not just due to the pay, of course, have to weight it together with other factors), why not?..if you don't risk anything in life, you tend to risk even more..

anyways..i feel for warrant officer Henry..
just remember that its true, it takes rain to make rainbows, lemons to make lemonade, and sometimes it takes difficulties to make us stronger and better people. the sun will shine again'll see..-Colin McCarty


Anonymous said...

I feel that things are really unfair for the SAF regular. It seems that SAF also means Served and Forgotten.

Experienced warrant officers who have served decades in the military actually have alot of things to teach the younger NSFs.

Anonymous said...

If anything you can learn from this, not just in Singapore, but in any country that you go to - never trust the government to take care of you (the citizens).

Anonymous said...

Nothing new here. That is the philosphy of the pap - double headed snake.

Anonymous said...

Dear Henry

I cannot help buy feel that you were so bitter about being laid off that you take your case to the press hoping to gain some cheap sympathy from members of the public. Perhaps you felt you could injure your employer (the government) at the same time.

I really do not feel sorry for you. People like you is better laid off from the organisation, the earlier the better. I am surpirsed that it took SAF so many years to see through your vicious character.

After so many years in the SAF, have you not learn any skill that can help you outside of military life during which I am sure you must have taken comfort under the protection by your warrant officer rank? Perhaps this is retribution for being the asshole that you may have been to your junior ranks in all these years of military life.

Finally get yourself a life outside the SAF and stop your whinning.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece of writing.

Thanks for sharing the brutal truth! That gold medal LEAP should be made as early as possible, if not downgraded as PES C/E after two bloody years of brutal slavery.

Living a life with a wretched party holding you at the throat is misery.

george said...

Ever wondered where they got this gall to lecture others?

They know there is no way their words will be contradicted when the mass media are in their pocket.

But Singaporeans cannot expect others to kill the snake in their own backyard. We either do it ourselves or continue to suffer from its venom. No way except once every 5 years, but as usual we appear to sabo ourselves nitpicking about the calibre of opposition. This stupidity is widespread.

Anonymous said...

His reason? His first loyalty is to his customers.

Anyone noticed that his first loyalty is to the customers and not to the employer or restaurant? I think in the service line, if one has a good base of loyal regular customers who like your food or service, it is hard to move to a new place and meet new customers who might be totally different. And if the customers really like you, the boss is unlikely to seek to fire you since if you are gone, the restaurant might suffer as the regulars might not take to the replacement's cooking.

Lesson on job security here? Make yourself indispensible.


Anonymous said...

The earlier Singaporeans learn not to trust the PAP, the better for them. Now that Singaporeans know there is no such thing as 'iron rice bowl' in civil service jobs, it is high time that civil servants exercise their vote wisely and not out of fear of losing their jobs, because your vote does not guarantee your job.

Job-hopping may not necessarily be bad. For example, if I know the company I am working for is not doing well and may retrench staff soon, it is just logical that I look for another job. And even if the company is doing well, what guarantee is there that I will not be retrenched when times are bad. Loyalty does not guarantee that I can keep my job when times are bad.

In Singapore, people are beginning to realise that you cannot trust the NTUC (never trust union chief) to fight for your job. They have a minister sitting at the top and their priority is elsewhere, not your job.

Lalalalala said...

i read this post of yours with much disappointment.

i'm sorry that the ministers in SG are top-calibre mindless trash who constantly spout nonsense to invalidate their earlier nonsense they preached to the millions of us.

i have therefore decided that no matter what, my allegiance is to myself and my family. Singapore can get lost.

oh, but my SG passport is still useful! =)

Anonymous said...

Just to add in, our dear garman plans to increase the retirement age to 67... right? 67 - 50 = 17. 17 years of difference. Sometimes, I really do not understand why people like to slap their own face.
I never thought of signing on as a regular as I always believe that the probability of becoming another Hendy is very high.
The society has become so merciless. You seriously have to think about yourself, your fellow friends, etcs, except our elites.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the gameplan is to make SG as employer friendly as possible. Capitalists are mobile where as the typical citizens is not.

Even John Howard is trying to move Australia away from "welfare state" to an "opportunity society". See,25197,22723567-601,00.html?from=mostpop

Anonymous said...

When I was a Medical Officer serving NS > 20 years ago, I met a few signed -on officers in their 30s who were prepared to leave because they did not higher educational qualifications, unlike the SAF scholars who were coming in to fill the ranks. Now these officers have to leave because they are too "old" at 50!

Anonymous said...

My two cents on the Henry Minjoot case.

Just take the SAF out of the picture and look at the case as one of an employee retrenched after a "right-sizing" exercise in his company.

Yes, we will feel sad for Henry, but this is the way life is. When a company restructures, it will need new skill sets quickly and if there's no job fit between the existing workers and the new job scope, they'd have to go. It doesn't make sense to keep the workers and create "meaningless work" for them just cos' they have been loyal to you for years. It's better to do the painful cut, but thank them for their loyal service with appropriate retrenchment benefits.

Being given 6 months notice sounds fair. As for retrenchment benefits, Henry didn't mention anything cos' it'd probably make his case less of a sob story. The other thing is... although he has a compulsory retirement age of 55, I don't think it equates to an iron rice bowl till he's 55. It probably means, even if there is a job fit, you gotta go at 55.

This may sound insensitive, but I rather the SAF "right-size" than keep "dead wood" in service. After all, we are paying their bills.

Anonymous said...

Of course Mr Krishna is short-sighted. He should just do what our ministers do - go tell his employer to increase his pay or else he will leave. Then he would earn even more.

Anonymous said...

""I received my performance bonuses annually without fail.""

To Henry, if he ever on this site.

You did not realise that a person in the SAF can be a A grade performer but a low CEP. And a person can have a high CEP but a low performer.

In your case you are a high performer and that is why you still get the performance bonuses every year. But you have a low CEP and you have already reach your CEP. How do I know? It is from your own statement, that you got promoted in 2001 and that puts you at age 45 when you were promoted to 2WO. A high CEP person will be getting their 2WO at age 28 to 30 years old. Therefore, all 200 that was ask to leave must have reached their CEP already and you have to make way for the others to rise.

Accept this an move on. Sad to say nobody told you the facts and left you in the dark.

Anonymous said...

very well said!

this is so typical of the double standards of the regime.

Anonymous said...

Whilst their exborbitant pay may satisfy their insatiable greed temporarily, (before they ask for more?) it will forever stick like a sore thumb throughout their career. Weren't we told months ago that we are living in a different situation and Singapore is unique? :These people say it best when they say nothing at all.

Anonymous said...

dear mr wang, one of the reasons why ministers' salaries was raised was to attract talent currently in the private sector and encourage them to serve the country. whilst there is an element of monetary incentive, it does not constitute poaching. and on the issue of loyalty, loyalty to country has to come before loyalty to your company (the idealistic view).

Anonymous said...

I propose that we fire Lim Swee Say and make Mr Kalaichellvan the next labour chief. At least when Mr Kalaichellvan speaks, we know that he practises what he preaches.

Anonymous said...

another elitist comment posted on the 8th of November at 12.43pm..
why you people so like that?!..people like to write to the media their pasar lah..why do you have to care?.. people concerned over their rice bowl and their family right?..
if you have no sympathy, keep your comments to yourself..
my god!..people like you are a bane to society..

anyone regardless of social status has a right to say whatever they want, dear elite, its freedom of speech! for crying out loud..

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, this is a topic that has been on my mind for a long time.

I notice that employers always bring up the job hopping issue when it suits them.

But as someone who lived through numerous layoffs and purges in 97/98 and later during more situation specific scenarios ie firm restructuring, firm implosion as well as seeing my own job disappear a couple of times through what can only be described as unethical practices*, I can only say that firms have not treated their people well and should hence not be asking for loyalty.

*Case 1 - Fresh grad in 1997, employers say that I have no skills and experience, need to serve a 1/2 year probation. Need to show dedication by not going for other interviews during this period (secretary keeps tabs on me), ended up missing commencement ceremony as well. Passed probation successfully. Firm now says want to put me on contract, because no headcount available. I say okay! Firm then says that need to turn me into monthly renewable temp with commitment of 1 year ie I promise to stay for 1 year while they have the option to fire me every month. At this point, I started asking questions. Firm then says bye-bye on Christmas eve. When I ask them to fill in training records ( I was a trainee accountant then), my boss remarked that I am a pain in the neck.

*Case 2 - Firm gets into some litigation controversy. 1 month after promoting some associates, firm says we must sacrifice for the firm ie 20% paycut and no reducible workhours (contrary to official notice). 2 months later, mass firing of junior associates via SMS and townhall briefing -- claim that they were underperforming just 2 months after positive job appraisal and to please pack and leave in 45 minutes. Firm hits the headlines for making our junior staff cry. Another month passed, firm fires some more, but more tactful this time around. But by now, people are heading voluntarily for the exit because they have lost confidence. HR starts calling people to come back. Those who came back were lost souls, because they were put on a contract and farmed out overseas and fired all over again in less than 2 months ... I could give more details of how the story played out, but I think enough is enough.

*Case 3 - After slaving for many years and going for multiple retrainings, I am now high-flying professional with expensive brandname qualifications. I asked to work in slightly different area. Firm says need to serve 1/2 year probation. I say okay again. Went in, doing well when I got a cancer diagnosis. Asked firm for work flexibility as I explore treatment options. Boss says okay and please take care of myself. 1.5 months later, suddenly the opening dried up and 2 weeks before I needed to go for an operation, they say that they have no more work for me anymore. Bye-bye, please take care of myself ...

After I got well, I cannot finish counting the number of doors that open when they saw my resume, and slam shut when they realise that I took time-off to deal with cancer.

I personally experienced these within 10 years of my career, and people are asking why I have a choppy resume. I told a headhunter that I need him to teach me a polite way of describing some parts of my career progression.

On the less dramatic side, I learnt to deal with interviewers who complain that I was underqualified (fresh grad), overqualified (elite school kid - my fault that I went to top school and got scholarships), who ask for photo, age, marital status and child-bearing plans ...
and bosses who find devious logic to cut and withhold my pay and bonus even after I have met performance targets.

Where was the government when these happen? And what about quality behaviour from my employers?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many more civil servants are like this soldier. If he presents a complete picture of the case, then the army's ingratitude is truly heart-breaking.

Anonymous said...

hey mr wang,

your post is amazing. love your style of writing. at times i wonder on wad grounds does the govt have to accuse us of being quitters when the ministers are comfortably spending on our taxes and giving hate speeches both at the same time.

the world is getting very disillusioning. i would advise fellow singaporeans to target emigration elsewhere. all these double standards, silliness and bigotry.

poor singapore.

Anonymous said...

LHL - Leader of Hypocrites and Liars

We have been told to work until 65 and yet our people are retrenched by the Gahmen even before they reach 50!

What more can we say when the name itself stands for it. Do we have any choice that we ALL WANT to work until 65?

Anonymous said...

They will always say things that are to their advantage. They will tweak their words to match their strategy from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Fancy having the cheek to think of enacting laws to force the private sector employers to continue keeping old workers while at the same time exempting itself (now only the uniformed sector) from following the enactment. They certainly are good at this game.

Anonymous said...

brilliant post. it's ridiculous how the govt continues to shoot itself in the foot with comments like that.

If this is top talent we are paying for, I think we are overpaying them by a mile.

In the meantime, i'm staying put in the UK.

Alex Tan said...

SAF is probably the only organization that tolerates incompetence.

anyway, its all written in the contract. SAF is not obligated to hire him till 55, technically but not morally.

Anonymous said...

So if SAF has a contract that says it is not obligated to hire someone till 55, what is there to prevent private sector employers from having this same clause in their employment contracts? Maybe the NTUC will forbid such clauses in collective agreements, but isn't that double-standard? So, this talk of legislating employment for older workers is not at all a concrete idea but perhaps just a legislation put forward to quell the unease of older workers. Are we being taken for a ride? Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

For long, they have been promoting the yellow ribbon urging companies to give ex-offenders a chance to integrate into the society however I wonder how much have they done in promoting the yellow ribbon in govt sector? Just give a try in applying for a govt sector job and declare that you have a criminal record. Look at how they will react. Another double standard. Never practise what they preached.

James Chia said...

Hypocrisy at its best. Recently they have really made me so mad with all their unpopular policies that I had to create a blog to vent my anger.

Anonymous said...

There s a lot of deadwood in SAF and such govt org, with people whose first and only job is with them. In govt org, conformity is valued, not leadership, or proactivity.

Whenever among friends and relatives we hear of some one "sign on" regular, we have this negative "cannot make it" comment. Of course there are exception.

Anonymous said...

It appears that Henry got benefits amounting to 2yrs of pay. Sounds generous in this day n age.

Anonymous said...

"There s a lot of deadwood in SAF and such govt org, with people whose first and only job is with them. In govt org, conformity is valued, not leadership, or proactivity."

generally true but imho, the system fails to reinvent itself into a non-seniority based n more performance based environment. This is the reality of that working world while the govt tries to shrink its budget. Strange as it may be, it is also not because ppl do not want a change toward a fairer, more transparent, more rewarding environment. But how to? when the budget is pressed down and the goodies are stuck on an old rigid distribution.

Even by extension, the recent taxi touting trend is highly indicative that with rising costs, how can taxi fare be artificially suppressed. Instead of acknowledging the enterprise of the touting networks, we think that the taxi drivers are simply out of hand. The point is that the system is not reinventing itself fast enough.

Anonymous said...

Another double standard!

Anonymous said...

Kite, well said.

Pay MOM website a visit. All rules governing employees' obligationns to the employers, are laws and policies. All "rules" governing employers' behaviour towards employees, are GUIDES.

Where else you have such a good gahmen (and Union) taking care of your welfare. If YOU don't sacrifice, your mother and sister will be maids in The Phillipines tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

If you have served in the army, you would have noticed that the army is full of people who are a waste of space and waste of tax payers' money.

Maybe the army wanted to get rid of these people from their payroll.

The moral of story is, do not expect the Singapore government to take care of you. You have to take care of yourself.