17 November 2008

Screwed by the impotent

DBS Bank is retrenching 900 employees following a poor third quarter performance. Lim Swee Say, cabinet minister and trade union czar, blasted it for not consulting the union beforehand. But why should DBS Bank do so? Full essay.


Anonymous said...

American bosses generally believe in doing things fast and clean and I think Richard Stanley falls into the mould of the typical American boss. Secondly, he is probably snubbing the Union because American bosses do not generally favour staff joining Unions. Of course you can argue that DBS is hardly an American company and perhaps Jackson Tai would have done it differently.

But, was he fundamentally wrong in not talking to the Union first? I think he must have thought about that and decided it was not crucial. Of course Lim Swee Say had to do something to salvage some credibility for the Union. I believe that in the longer term, with more and more employee's working on year by year contracts, the Union looks less relevant in years to come.

Anonymous said...

The unions are toothless and ineffective. Employers can pretty much do what they want. NTUC is more interested in its businesses than its employees; has been for years.

Anonymous said...

In this age of globalisation, who needs unions anyway? The days of table thumping unionists and picket lines, at least in Singapore, are long gone. So let's not create a big mountain out of a molehill and move on. The affected workers both senior and junior have taken the dramatic turn of events in their stride and instead of looking back at the "what ifs" are already planning their next career move after the salutary sadness of parting ways with an employer they have known for a big part of their lives.

Save the energy for the theatrics, rhetoric and the recrimination to sort out the "structured products" investment fiasco asap so those who waits forlornly at Hong Lim every other Saturday can go home and have happy weekends with their families as they should be.

Anonymous said...

The same impotencies could also be applied to the Ministry of Manpow (MOM), hell for that matter the government (by that I mean the PAP and all the state machinery too.

As for your point about the merits of a quickie "retrenchment" or "redundancy" (for the international audience), the point you brought up is debatable. I suppose it is human nature to want certainty but frankly, even for those the stayers, why would they feel any more motivated to work. After all, who is to say the next round wouldn't fall on them, if retrenchment is seen to be so swift.

On your point about good employees jumping ship because of pay cuts. Again debatable anyway. Employees will search for better pay relative to others anyway not necessarily because it is cut. In any case, if the general employment outlook is bad, there is not much choice for "good" employee to move anyway.

In case you are unaware, there have been attempts to tie up unions across national boundary. I believe there is one UK union linking up with its American counter parts.

True, some unions are still stuck in the pre-war mode, all unions will have to operate within the bounds of national laws. Unlike MNCs which can easily play off one nation against another, unions are by their nature unable to do so.

For example, in the not too distant past unions across anglo saxon countries have tried to co-ordinate through so-called "sympathy strikes" but legislations have made it virtually unproductive to do so.

Anonymous said...

very good article from you.

a few words for swee say: what can he do about it. NTUC and DBS are government linked and he is from the government too (minister without portfolio or something?).

retrenched with mouths to feed is not good especially in SG, you cannot go rely on the dole until you find another job as in other countries. welfare is a crime here.

government currently talking about sending workers for training instead of laying them off.
even with government subsidies dont think this is such a fantastic idea for many companies that will be badly hit by the recession.

trainings are short stints in working life, recession can go on for years. if the bosses are making losses how to sustain excess workers. send them for trainings forever till recession over?

the sg government is scared of mass unemployment (of course the sg people dont like recessions too) because they do not like giving out welfare to the people. Welfare is a crime in sg. let the employers to resolve the problem for the people.

whats that you said? btw here and there sg workers are screwed.

the golden period of singapore came and went away very quickly and china is also facing problems - no business, no manufacturing orders for their factories....

yuen said...

DBS is ultimately under the control of Temasek, and important decisions must be consistent with Temasek thinking; however, it is sometimes convenient to have someone else in charge who does, and gets blamed for, decisions that the real power holders can distance from

The said...

/// Of course you can argue that DBS is hardly an American company and perhaps Jackson Tai would have done it differently. ///

Jackson Tai is as American, or rather as Canadian, as they come.

He may do it different, but not because his style is un-American. He may not even consider retrenchment because he was the one responsible for bringing all those expensive investment-banker types of foreign non-talents in the first place.

Anonymous said...

when you said either way... singapore workers are screwed, this is just sad.

it was not too long ago, the people in power were trumpetting how good, educated, hardworking and trained the "singaporean" workforce were. there were then reports that our "singaporean" workforce ranked no 1 in the world.
i was proud to be a singaporean then, honest this was how i felt.

what happen now? ask them for some help and they say they do not want to breed a crutch metallity.

the people in power had turned against us. they are chiding us condescendingly that we are choosy, poor service oriented, we are not hungry enough and the list goes on.

they flooded singapore with so many foreign workers of all trades to compete with singaporeans for those already low paying jobs.

and now with a recession in its hands they can even tell you that foreign workers are good for you. without them you will lose your job. what kind of logic is this, to me its like increase gst to help the poor all over again.

this just make me ponder, if there is a war tomorrow what will i be fighting for? should i risk my life and then have the people in power turned against me again.

Anonymous said...

This posturing by the NTUC chief is for public consumption only. He wants to appear as a saviour to the retrenched staff including MDs and SVPs of DBS whom I am sure are not NTUC members.

If I was not wrong the Ag MOM minister was silent at that session.

The NTUC chief (who is also one of the many Ministers in the PM's office -- euphemism for Minister without portfolio)
is trying to justify his salary.

Anonymous said...


I enjoy your writing very much, and agree with the general ideas in this argument.

However, I am somewhat discomfited by some of the imagery you employed. "Cat-fight between sisters-in-law"? "Screwed by the impotent"? If this isn't masculinity-centric (and a certain vision of "masculinity" to boot, I don't know what is!

I hope you don't feel I'm nit-picking. But I sincerely feel that language like this rhetorically, if not substantively, undermines your excellent points.


Anonymous said...

Lim Sia Suay is just trying to score some cheap political points lah.

recruit ong

Anonymous said...

I think you missed an important point. The actual no affected in Singapore is not 600. Was it necessary to start a panic attack by announcing the news like it was the start of World War 3?

If you spent some time looking at the retrenchment numbers over the years, you'll come to the conclusion that there was no need to shout out loud, and start a downstream panic attack.

Think bigger my friend, don't just skim the surface and walk your muse on the easiest path down the hill I say.

Anonymous said...

George says:

Well said Alex.

Singaporeans have all these years been made to suffer the highly educated fools that make up the govt leadership.