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Employers and Ethics in Singapore

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BillyB
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Employers and Ethics in Singapore

Postby BillyB » Wed, 02 Mar 2011 10:24 pm

Hi All,

I'm hoping for some honest and blunt feedback please guys.

My girlfriend is working in sales and marketing for a company selling event management software into the complete horizontal of companies offering events in Singapore - banking, pharma, marketing, educational, government etc.

Since she has been there she has been prospecting and cold calling getting on average 10 meetings a week - making 150-250 calls per week to achieve this. She has sent over 200 proposals out and closed a number of deals in Q3 and Q4 2010 hitting well above target. However, 2011 has started slowly and there are now number of rivals flooding the market, some based in India, offering a similar product but at a substantially lower price. Hence she is getting the price objection on a regular basis.

The competitors are using the cheaper design costs available in India and offering similar products and web design at a 1/4 of the price. Her boss won't move on their prices at all, hence a lack of business as they aren't competing on a product or cost basis as they are cutting back on developers to keep the product ahead of the competition, and they aren't prepared to compete on cost.

Now her boss - without prior warning - announces that her base salary is being cut 50% with immediate effect because of lack of deals and adds 'well there are two options here, you take the cut or you leave', and also states 'you have to be ruthless to your employees to succeed in business'.

He is also offering to pay her the original higher salary to avoid problems with her EP P1 being downgraded to P2, and asking if she will give the money straight back to the company once credited to her bank.

I hear it is common for this approach in Singapore and to cut employees salary if the numbers aren't coming in. But usually that is due to lack of effort and not putting the work in. I may sound biased but my GF works very hard, is fluent on the phone and has a proven track record and has closed more new business than all the other reps to date.

Having worked in institutional sales and managed teams for 10 years, I've never known someone to have salary cut without a prior warning on unsatisfactory performance first. In fact I've never seen anyone take a salary cut - bonus cut yes, but not base comp. I personally think its a rash and harsh decision and is extremely short sighted and unethical.

Is this normal practice in Singapore? And if so, why do people put up with this sort of employer?

I appreciate your thoughts.

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Postby Mad Scientist » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 12:41 am

Have you seen MOM ?

Employer cannot deduct salary unless it is written in the employment contract. What does it states? Commission based or?

I will check for you with my kid sister and come back
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Postby Mad Scientist » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 6:06 am

Billy

OK I have went up to the mountains and talk to the big "man". This is what is being conveyed

1. Employment Act is only a guideline , it is superseded by your gf employment contract which she signed on the dotted line. If she is on P1, then obviously she is worth alot to the employer to pay her that much. Hence value of money against value sales generated against total sales of company. Which means your employer knows very well how and why they are paying her. This will weigh heavily against them if they decided to terminate her without valid reason, justification and deduction of salary for the work done.
2. The devil is in the detail of her contract. Comb it thoroughly. Look for anything that states deduction prior notice. The last salary deduction done by the Gahmen was done thru consultation and dragged from months before it was implemented. It cannot be done with just a flick of the finger and it is being deducted without prior consent from the employee.
3. What they are suggesting or going to do is against the law
Read this http://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practi ... fault.aspx
4. This practise is illegal and unfair.
5. Get all of these proposals in writing just in case everything goes to custard. Burn them in hell if the need arises
6. Unfair treatment, abuse, Unfair dismissal can be re addressed to MOM and a lawyer.
7. IMHO, if the employer is going to do this, I bet ya, there are more tricks under their sleeves.
8. From now onwards make sure she get everything documented
9. Lastly look for another job.

This is my opinion. Maybe others has a better solution for you.
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Postby BillyB » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 9:30 am

Hey MS,

Many thanks for your input on this and for taking the time to dig around. I owe you a beer!!

I thought this practice was unethical and her contract states nothing about reserving the right to reduce salary or anything remotely associated with that.

To be honest, they are yet another example of a mickey mouse company punching above their weight and personally i think they have serious cash flow issues.

I think a visit to the MOM is definitely on the agenda and i'm going to source a local lawyer well versed in employment law.

Once again, really appreciate your help and thanks for taking the time to answer.

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Postby Addadude » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 9:33 am

While I certainly don't have MS' experience or lobangs ('holes' - connections), I can offer my own 2 cents worth.

Having to take a pay cut because business is poor (for whatever reason) is certainly not unheard of. Taking it at face value, if the employer can only afford to pay her 50% of her salary because they simply don't have the money, she has a few choices: put up with it (probably while quietly looking for another job); reject it and leave immediately; or, if this salary is specified in her employment contract for a given time period, fight it with a lawyer's help (which certainly won't be cheap).

I've been through something like this myself back in 2003 - the company I was working for was going through tough times and they instituted a 10% pay cut across all employees. It was a case of take the cut and keep your job or refuse and lose it.

HOWEVER - this part of your post raised alarm bells for me:

He is also offering to pay her the original higher salary to avoid problems with her EP P1 being downgraded to P2, and asking if she will give the money straight back to the company once credited to her bank.

I am pretty sure that this is illegal and could cause real problems with Immigration if they find out. Perhaps SMS can pipe in on this one.
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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 9:42 am

Did I hear my nick used in vain! :o :lol:

Yes, it's defo illegal and MOM wouldn't like it one bit. But, in this case it's not really a big deal. The employer might get a telling off or a slap on the wrist or even barred for a period of time. The key here is the fact that the employee is still qualified for an EP at any rate.

However, if it were an S pass holder, all hell would break loose as these people are on levies and it's the lowest tier of the EP ladder. If they weren't making 1800/month minimum they would have an S pass at all so MOM is even more strict there, ensuring that all S pass employers pay their S pass holders via GIRO and the caution that MOM can walk in and inspect their bank records and payroll records at any time without warning. However, I do know that abuse still happens and you read about it occasionally when somebody get caught with their hands in the cookie jar trying to pull a fast one.

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Postby Addadude » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 9:56 am

Wow! Not sleeping now eh, SMS? :D
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Postby ecureilx » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 11:18 am

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Yes, it's defo illegal and MOM wouldn't like it one bit. But, in this case it's not really a big deal. The employer might get a telling off or a slap on the wrist or even barred for a period of time. The key here is the fact that the employee is still qualified for an EP at any rate.


Happened to a friend of mine, and MOM had to choose between FT and a local home-grown (no kidding - even headline stealing) company - MOM chose the latter .. and did nothing ..

However, if it were an S pass holder, all hell would break loose as these people are on levies and it's the lowest tier of the EP ladder. If they weren't making 1800/month minimum they would have an S pass at all so MOM is even more strict there, ensuring that all S pass employers pay their S pass holders via GIRO and the caution that MOM can walk in and inspect their bank records and payroll records at any time without warning. However, I do know that abuse still happens and you read about it occasionally when somebody get caught with their hands in the cookie jar trying to pull a fast one.


As a matter of fact, a simple question among the thousands of restaurant, hotel, bar staff, plus the thousands of such workers from Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar etc .. will prove that almost or more than 50% are on terms like higher declared pay and balance paid back to employer .. as 'deductions' .. :)

Employers keep their finger clean saying the deductions are made by the placement agencies .. I am sure MOM knows but legally, when you have a foreign worker who has agreed to pay 50% of his pay to his agency - nothing can be done ..

PS: my statistics of half of the workers being exploited - well, from my casual conversation with numerous staff in the service industry - and atleast half of them had the same sob story (not lie because atleast some of the employers they work for - I was able to indirectly verify the truth .. )

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Postby revhappy » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 11:22 am

Technically, they are not reducing your GF's salary. On paper they are giving the same salary. But then your GF's going to return part of it back.

So how are you going to prove this? As of now the employer has just put forward this proposal, its not in writing, is it? And I bet they will never do it in writing. She will have to actually return 50% back to them in order to prove it. If she does that, it means she is playing a part in it too.

So you see, the employers are smart. Welcome to business friendly Singapore. Its always a double edged sword.

Isn't there a clause in the employment contract that they can terminate her before the contract ends? I would be surprised if it doesnt exist. If it doesnt exist then may be your GF can refuse to return back the 50% salary and then they have no choice but to pay her the full salary.

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Postby ecureilx » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 11:45 am

revhappy wrote:So how are you going to prove this? As of now the employer has just put forward this proposal, its not in writing, is it? And I bet they will never do it in writing. She will have to actually return 50% back to them in order to prove it. If she does that, it means she is playing a part in it too.


My 2 cents ?? I almost got caught with an employer, when he was trying to pull me in, at a time when EP was tough .. and casually, another colleague mentioned that, from his experience, such employers not only screw you, but hold your B***S tight - because, if you harbor any thoughts of going to CPIB, the employer will produce documents to say you were part of the scam - the result ? Employer will likely dissolve / sell his company to his sister and will be business-as-usual, and you get sent back home packing ..

So you see, the employers are smart. Welcome to business friendly Singapore. Its always a double edged sword.


That's not a nice thing to say - my experience working in the region, it is not Singapore, but all over the world, the more desperate the employee is, and the more smarter the employer is, he / she will try to squeeze the terms here and there .. don't blame Singapore.

Singapore is a bit on the upper scale due to the number of people trying to come here, and the number of small/medium business who want to sqeeze an extra dollar out the employe .. (that's my 2 cents .. )

If it doesnt exist then may be your GF can refuse to return back the 50% salary and then they have no choice but to pay her the full salary.


Well, and an employer who is on that term can also find trivial reasons to fire you .. and you can take the case to the court and still you can do zilch - can you force an employer to keep you employed ? This is Asia - not Europe, where employers have to keep the people employed ..

like, in Europe, where labour laws make it hard to fire staff, and employers are forced to keep paying the staff, or face the music .. and it is cheaper to keep the people paid regardless of their contribution or not ..

I may be wrong ..

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Postby revhappy » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 12:19 pm

ecureilx wrote:
revhappy wrote:So how are you going to prove this? As of now the employer has just put forward this proposal, its not in writing, is it? And I bet they will never do it in writing. She will have to actually return 50% back to them in order to prove it. If she does that, it means she is playing a part in it too.


My 2 cents ?? I almost got caught with an employer, when he was trying to pull me in, at a time when EP was tough .. and casually, another colleague mentioned that, from his experience, such employers not only screw you, but hold your B***S tight - because, if you harbor any thoughts of going to CPIB, the employer will produce documents to say you were part of the scam - the result ? Employer will likely dissolve / sell his company to his sister and will be business-as-usual, and you get sent back home packing ..

So you see, the employers are smart. Welcome to business friendly Singapore. Its always a double edged sword.


That's not a nice thing to say - my experience working in the region, it is not Singapore, but all over the world, the more desperate the employee is, and the more smarter the employer is, he / she will try to squeeze the terms here and there .. don't blame Singapore.

Singapore is a bit on the upper scale due to the number of people trying to come here, and the number of small/medium business who want to sqeeze an extra dollar out the employe .. (that's my 2 cents .. )

If it doesnt exist then may be your GF can refuse to return back the 50% salary and then they have no choice but to pay her the full salary.


Well, and an employer who is on that term can also find trivial reasons to fire you .. and you can take the case to the court and still you can do zilch - can you force an employer to keep you employed ? This is Asia - not Europe, where employers have to keep the people employed ..

like, in Europe, where labour laws make it hard to fire staff, and employers are forced to keep paying the staff, or face the music .. and it is cheaper to keep the people paid regardless of their contribution or not ..

I may be wrong ..


By the double edged sword comment what I meant was being business friendly has its positives and negatives. Its very easy to get Visa to work here and low cost of doing business and low taxes. But business friendly also means low employee rights. In Europe its exactly opposite you have labour unions and what not so its very difficult to fire an employee there and its equally difficult to find a job there.

I hope you got what I intend to say. I wasn't comparing SG with the region. If SG was like the region, none of us would have been here, would we?

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Postby ecureilx » Thu, 03 Mar 2011 12:22 pm

revhappy wrote:By the double edged sword comment what I meant was being business friendly has its positives and negatives. Its very easy to get Visa to work here and low cost of doing business and low taxes. But business friendly also means low employee rights. In Europe its exactly opposite you have labour unions and what not so its very difficult to fire an employee there and its equally difficult to find a job there.


:) :)

As a matter of fact, I was picking the brain of a guy attached to a manufacturing company out of US, and when I was comparing the US prices vs European prices, the European prices being cheaper, the guy said that in US, if you can't sell, you fire people and scale down. In Europe, you don't fire people, so you keep manufacturing, to satisfy the labour laws etc. and it is technically cheaper to operate at a loss than to slow down the production ..

I hope you got what I intend to say. I wasn't comparing SG with the region. If SG was like the region, none of us would have been here, would we?


Yes boss - you got that right :)

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Postby Mad Scientist » Fri, 04 Mar 2011 3:46 am

Billy

First of all , these advise came from my sis , a litigation lawyer(hired gun for the Gahmen ), in SG. Not my words. So she convey this from a legal perspective.
Severance pay, if the needs arises , if everything goes to custard will depend on the contract signed.
MOM Employment Act is only a guideline. They will oversee the dispute but usually the courts will decide. They are more concern of the "small" people taken advantage by unscruplous employer..
Now comes the hard part, your gf is in dilemma. The best way to go forward is to get it recorded and documented, then seek lawyer for compensation.
Litigation cost varies from $500 onwards. Yours, I imagined in the range of $2 to $5K all in. This is peanut compare to getting nothing from the employer.
Based on my previous life, yes, we did some pay cut after consultation with MOM and employees. The first during SAR period but the difference were met by the Gahmen, hence we are not out of pocket
The last one we discuss with the employees and inform MOM too . They suggested that we keep the some staff and release all the WPs and contract workers. We did provide a token of gratuity to all of them. Most of them know that business was very bad. All the directors stop taking any pay or allowance at all for a year just to keep the company afloat. Managers and executives took 50% cut. This was done across the board. Lastly we had everyone on alternate NO PAY week leave.
This lasted almost a year until business picked up. The last one we received no help from the gahmen.
If paycut exercise was done across the board then your gf employer is a bloody sucker. It has to be fair and square.
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Postby ecureilx » Fri, 04 Mar 2011 11:23 am

Mad Scientist wrote:The first during SAR period but the difference were met by the Gahmen, hence we are not out of pocket ..............>>>>> .... All the directors stop taking any pay or allowance at all for a year just to keep the company afloat


Not to be funny, I was in a small company when SARS hit- and our directors (both of them) proudly declared they are working salary-free for the next six months .. and while I was not intruding, I was reminded that salary free doesn't equate to really free ..

Heck, their car, petrol, food, dress, and what not were all still charged to the company .. and nothing changed, other than the 'directors fee' they were drawing .. and in any case 90% of their expenses were always charged back to the company ... :D :D and the quarterly revenue sharing always took place (how I know ?? Well, I got my solemnly and sincerely sworn sources .. )

Ever since, when somebody says directors worked without pay - I always take it with a pinch of salt mate ... :)

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Postby BillyB » Fri, 04 Mar 2011 11:40 am

Mad Scientist wrote:Billy

First of all , these advise came from my sis , a litigation lawyer(hired gun for the Gahmen ), in SG. Not my words. So she convey this from a legal perspective.
Severance pay, if the needs arises , if everything goes to custard will depend on the contract signed.
MOM Employment Act is only a guideline. They will oversee the dispute but usually the courts will decide. They are more concern of the "small" people taken advantage by unscruplous employer..
Now comes the hard part, your gf is in dilemma. The best way to go forward is to get it recorded and documented, then seek lawyer for compensation.
Litigation cost varies from $500 onwards. Yours, I imagined in the range of $2 to $5K all in. This is peanut compare to getting nothing from the employer.
Based on my previous life, yes, we did some pay cut after consultation with MOM and employees. The first during SAR period but the difference were met by the Gahmen, hence we are not out of pocket
The last one we discuss with the employees and inform MOM too . They suggested that we keep the some staff and release all the WPs and contract workers. We did provide a token of gratuity to all of them. Most of them know that business was very bad. All the directors stop taking any pay or allowance at all for a year just to keep the company afloat. Managers and executives took 50% cut. This was done across the board. Lastly we had everyone on alternate NO PAY week leave.
This lasted almost a year until business picked up. The last one we received no help from the gahmen.
If paycut exercise was done across the board then your gf employer is a bloody sucker. It has to be fair and square.


Yep, you're correct. Its a tricky situation and obviously a load of hassle that we don't really need. We're waiting to see what the little sh*t says today and if he wants to follow correct procedure by sending out a new contract and making suggestions to do things properly and officially.

Thanks for your input.


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