Category Archives: Jobs and Places

“Fire Locals, Hire Foreigners” Policy Lands Singapore Firm in Trouble

Collusion Among Employers Common

Finally, the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) has acted against a local company for discriminating against Singaporeans in employment. The marine company, Prime Gold International, is reported to have fired Singaporeans and hired foreigners in their place.

Kudos to MoM!

I am surprised, though, that MoM took more than five months to act after the affected employees brought their sacking to its attention.

Protection for Whistleblowers: Not sure if they had found alternative employment in the interim. Given that employers collude with one another, which is common even among competing companies, what protection do whistleblowers have? LinkedIn is one of the platforms enabling an easy collusion to make it difficult for staff to switch jobs.

This is one area where competitors are friends. Enemies are happy to sleep with each other to hound staff. Just a quick check of the profiles of business leaders will show how deep this conspiracy is – all in the name of social networking!.

Prime Gold (I had not heard of them until this morning’s newspapers reported that it has been barred from hiring foreigners for two years) is the only company in the country to have faced such action from the Government.

Lenient Action?: Also, is the action good enough? They have stocked the company with foreigners any way, so a two-year penalty does not sound like a reasonable punishment with the potential to be an effective deterrent.

Will Singapore go soft on drug peddlers? Stringent penalties are in place, including the death penalty, for that because Singapore does not wish to see offenders harm society.

Jobs are the lifeblood of locals, so why be lenient on those who tamper with it?

Established players, including foreign MNCs, are perhaps more cunning and clever in flouting local rules.The Government is perhaps careful in dealing with the aberrations, if any, of the biggies so as not to send a negative image to the market.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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TCS Catches the Hire-and-Fire Cost-Cutting Bug

30k Old Horses to be Let Go and Replaced by 35k Fresh Grads in Christmas Shocker

Christmas time is a season of giving when people in the workforce look forward to receiving some bonus payments in Singapore and the West. In India, such cheer is perhaps spread during Diwali.

But this December, instead of playing Santa Claus, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is actually dispensing pink slips to those they have suddenly discovered to be unwanted. TCS appears to have started the process of letting go around 30,000 professionals if media reports are to be believed.

No dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh to dish that out. They just needed to identify the old horses whose roles could be made redundant.

Shocking, Shabby Wording

What is shocking is their open declaration that the company’s under-performers are the ones who are being laid off. So just cost-cutting is not their goal. Their motive also appears to be to make it difficult for the staff to find alternative employment.

A quick read of one such letter (available on the Net and at issued to one employee shows how shabbily it has been worded.

Here is what a sentence says …”we have reviewed our requirements and find that your current employment is not warranted. So we will be relieving you of your employment with us.”

The letter has been signed off by one Thomas V Simon, VP of HR. Looks like he has given TCS this Christmas gift before going on leave to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

But what has Christmas got to do in a country that is set to become a Hindu Rashtra, the primary goal of the BJP Government?

Downsizing is common among technology companies. Multinational biggies such as HP, IBM and Microsoft do that regularly. But branding them as poor performers is not something a mature employer will do. It amounts to showing no empathy with the staff who are being laid off.

With this development, all talk about the Tatas being good employers is set to change for the worse.

Disclaimer: This post is based on what I have read on the Net. I will be happy to be proved wrong.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Glut of Lawyers in Singapore after a Flood of IT Engineers

Govt’s Lax Immigration Policies to Blame?

Interesting that Singaporeans figured this morning that they should stop thinking of becoming lawyers. Because there is a glut of lawyers in the country! I welcome this transparency and warning as this can help avoid wasted learning.

But this transparency should extend beyond such mere alerts and should be qualified with meaningful data. Singaporeans have a right to know what led to this situation. How many foreign lawyers did the country import the last few years? What is the count of lawyers who are not Singaporeans?

The government should exclude PRs from whatever data they dish out. PRs are foreigners too – let Singaporeans not be fooled! The government may like the people to believe that the lawyers from overseas are experienced legal eagles that the country needs. What for do we need them? To defend criminals? Or protect companies who flout corporate norms and harass employees?

Law Seldom Protects the Wronged

Law has hardly been a platform for protection of the wronged. Experienced practitioners know how to use loopholes in law to save the moneyed from being brought to justice. They are, to me, a dispensable commodity. Why then did Singapore have to import such people who are not individual-friendly and suck up only to the high and mighty?

If the government wants to discourage them from learning Law why did they allow institutions to start Law faculties not too long ago? To admit foreign students and monetise education?

Glut of Engineers amid the Shift to Offshoring

There is already a glut of foreign engineers in the country because of the needless growth in IT companies. This mad expansion was hardly needed given the growing relevance of offshoring. Why overpopulate Singapore and make life difficult for its people?

Medical professionals are critical and it does make sense to bring in experienced foreign doctors as they benefit locals. Universities will need high-quality professionals for their teaching faculties as well.

Is the government being selective in the import of foreign talent? I have my doubts!

Singaporeans are losing not just jobs to foreigners but also seats in educational institutions here just because the government wants to see some diversity on campuses here.

G Joslin Vethakumar


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Fighting Corporate Evil Perpetuated by Technology Giants

Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe had a deal not to hire from each other!

It was in 1997 I quit journalism to try my hand at corporate writing and get away from the monopolistic media sector in Singapore. I moved into the world of information technology – a calculated risk that has served me well!

Prior to that switch I attended an interview at Bloomberg when I was told I would have to work for a few days as part of an on-the-job evaluation process. I also learnt that if I worked for a Bloomberg client the information would be relayed to my then employer before I am hired. I was not prepared to accept these conditions which I thought were unreasonable. So I did not pursue it.

It may not be devious behaviour on the part of the employer as the rules were clearly laid out for the jobseeker to walk into the trap, knowing the inherent pitfalls. It was clear, though, that the employee was at a distinct disadvantage because of the open collusion among employers!

Death of a software engineer: Now, 17 years later, things appear to have only gone worse for employees if the drama that is being played out in California, triggered by the death of a software engineer, Brandon Marshall, is any indication.

It appears four technology giants in the Silicon Valley — Google, Apple, Intel and Adobehad a tacit deal among them not to hire people from each other! What a devious corporate tactic to restrict the movement of employees in what is believed to be the land of the free!

It not only puts curbs in the way of people seeking career progression, it even exposes them to the risk of losing their current jobs if they try to venture out!

Brainchild of Steve Jobs: It is learnt that this wily, anti-employee scheme was the brainchild of late Apple founder Steve Jobs, idolised by the tech community! Apple was never considered a good employer, but the new revelations put it in poorer light!

Businesses do make significant investments on staff development and it may not be wrong for them to expect a certain degree of stickiness and loyalty from those they trained. But there must be better ways to ensure staff retention without impeding their professional growth! Retention aside, what about employees who are subjected to victimisation by the companies they work for? With this kind of nasty deals in place, how can they find the kind of jobs they seek?

Hopefully, the antitrust suit in the US that pits 64, 613 students against Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe will deliver a fatal blow to unethical corporate practices.

It is expected that the class action suit can result in a settlement that will set these four companies back by US$3 billion!

The corporate world must be purged of such evil. There should be no place for that in a civilized world!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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BT, Cisco Working Together – Cost Savings Driving MNCs to CBP

But Long Waits at Tanah Merah Drive Commuters Nuts

BT and Cisco Systems are working from the same building in Singapore. The physical proximity aside, BT is a Cisco gold partner globally.

The Cisco logo on my IP phone at work stares at me all the while and the BT proposals I manage almost always deal with Cisco networking and conferencing gear.

While at Cisco, the winning bids I helped manage contributed to its bottomline. Now, even while at BT, this numerical relationship continues with every opportunity that BT clinches also adding to Cisco revenues .

At the Capital Tower on Robinson Road, some of Cisco’s neighbours were JP Morgan and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC). At the South Tower in Changi Business Park (CBP), Cisco shares logo space atop the building with NTUC FairPrice. Isn’t that interesting?

IBM, SCB and Credit Suisse are among the scores of multinational giants already at the CBP, with many more set to move in very soon. Cost savings are the biggest driver even as facilities are improving on the outskirts. Rentals here are believed to be at least 50% lower than at the CBD area.

As with CBD, here too both technology and financial players are occupying the bulk of the corporate space.


Cisco and NTUC

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Why Bus Rides are Jerky in Singapore!

The strike in Singapore by misguided bus drivers from China has resulted in some of them being deported back to their country of origin. The stern move by Singapore is a clear warning to immigrants – respect local laws or pay the price for any aberration.

This will apply to Singaporeans who work or live overseas as well. Luckily, those Singaporeans who emigrate generally pick such countries as Australia or the U.K. where governments take a lenient view of protests even by those who live off their charity – those from trouble-prone countries given asylum there, for instance.

Overcrowding and Dipping Quality of Life: With the quality of life in Singapore steadily dipping because of overcrowding, no thanks to the massive influx of “foreign talent”, the country can see more locals take flight in the future. Less congested countries will always be a big draw – one reason why all the large countries are avoiding mindless import of people from overseas.

The digression apart, the strike by bus drivers in Singapore offered an answer to the question I always had – when the roads are smooth and the vehicles great (Benz, Volvo, etc) why is the driving so bad? Obviously, it is because Singapore has been bringing in very bad drivers from neighbouring countries. I have not seen such bumpy rides even in countries where the roads are awful and the buses rickety.

But is SMRT monitoring the quality of bus driving in Singapore and is it providing the right kind of training to those they bring in? Or, is the disgruntled workforce deliberately taking it on passengers with irresponsible driving?

G Joslin Vethakumar


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Changing Values and New Corporate Culture

AWARE report on harassment of women at the workplace …

Men in position of clout getting favours unsought, from sycophancy to more, and obliging, ambitious, even flirtatious women ready to tap their physical charm to take their careers higher are as common as misplaced arrogance blending with loud talk and silent fumbling at the workplace.

This is the reality the world has been led to by changing corporate, social and family values with unbridled success, by hook or by crook, and infinite wealth staying paramount. How you head where has long lost its significance! It is a scenario where the end justifies the means, applying to both women and men!

Harassment of Women: So the report in The Straits Times and online media today, quoting guidelines from AWARE, about the prevalence of sexual harassment at work and how women may deal with it only stirred mixed sentiments from me.

The question that instantly came to my mind was: “Who will police women who cross boundaries to embrace success?”

An Incident at Cisco: Harassment may be an issue some face at the workplace. In fact, a former American colleague of mine at Cisco was fired in 2007 without warning for some alleged misdemeanour while we were at an offsite in Vancouver.

None of us knew about it while we were there – the company leadership had quickly and quietly acted upon on a complaint. It was only after we returned to our respective locations that the news was out. Even then, we did not know who the complainant was. The issue was handled with such sensitivity.

From Cecilia Sue in Singapore to Paula Broadwell in America, a sense of shame or embarrassment descends on ambitious women only after the things they do to either win contracts or get ahead in life land them in court, with uncomfortable media spotlight.

But this curse of the 21st century IT generation also means that top executives have to do a lot more than just work, as those at Oracle in the Cecilia saga found out. They had to testify in courts on whether unethical, immoral practices were allowed to happen.

We cannot be blind to harassment of women at the workplace. At the same time, unethical practices at work, whether by women or by men, will have to be frowned upon with equal vehemence!

G Joslin Vethakumar


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