Transitioning has seen a few unfair dismissal cases recently and the growing trend is disturbing as such cases usually involve well-educated Singaporeans who are mostly in their forties.
More significantly, they do not have a union to represent them during a very trying period of their employment and usually gave in to the company’s demands who are behaving like big bullies.
I have always advised disenchanted executives to seek assistance from Ministry of Manpower who usually arbitrates for them successfully.
Seldom do such unfair dismissal cases go to the open court as it does not help anyone involves in the case. Companies also want to avoid bad publicity as it will involve an adverse reputation tag for them as well if the case goes out in the open.
Moreover, reinstallation of the sacked executive looks unpromising given the fact that most of such dismissal cases were carried out bitterly and acriminously.
Most of these executives just want a fair severance package from their previous companies and also to clear their good name if possible.
There is alot of pride and hurt involves in an unfair dismissal case especially if it is unwarranted and unjustified.
I met up with Johnson recently – another highly-educated engineer who was unceremoniously dismissed from his multi-national company together with another local engineering colleague.
Both were shown the door early last week - given one month’s notice using the contractual method. They have worked in the company for more than five years.
The fact that both were local engineers and above 45 years old also infuriated them as they suspected that they are being targetted for replacement due to their seniority and age.
Their high pay structure is also one huge factor as MNCs now can hire cheaper foreign talents by the hundreds using the Employment Pass permit.
The company is also accused by the sacked executives of trying to save up on retrenchment benefit.
It did not help that the whole company is invaded by permanent residents, foreign talents and very few local Singaporeans. That is probably why the two sacked Singaporean engineers felt targetted.
Their new boss – a local PRC Chinese, asked them to buck up or ship out earlier this year but both of them decided to hang on as they were not under-performing as alleged by the company.
Using a under-handed tactic and threatening them with Performance Indicator Plan (PIP), the company hoped that they would resign on their own accord – a provened technique used by many companies to drive executives to resign on their own as if not termination due to poor performance will suffice.
Many executives fall for the ruse and resign on their own accord to save face.
Moreover, it is not wise to work on if you are not appreciated by your own bosses and it is far better to move out respectfully and look for another job.
Johnson and his ex-colleague hung on as they felt that they are entitled to severance package and moreover they are still working well in the company.
The severance money is no small feat especially when one of them has worked for more than ten years in the company and could come up to a tidy six figure sum.
The Ministry of Manpower website has this to say about severance payment:-
Under the Employment Act, an employee who has been employed in a company for at least three years can request for retrenchment benefits if he/she is retrenched.
As the law does not stipulate the quantum to be paid, the amount is subject to negotiation between the employee and employer. The quantum will also depend on the company’s financial position.
An employee who has worked less than three years in a company is not entitled to retrenchment benefits under the Employment Act. However, the company may pay an ex-gratia payment at its discretion.
Both retrenchment benefits and ex-gratia payments do not attract CPF contributions.
What irked Johnson is that failing to kick them out using the dreadful PIP excuse, the company now terminated them using the contractual term stated in their contract i.e. terminating an employee’s service given one month of notice.
“It is not right to use such under-handed tactic to let go of long serving executives,” Johnson retorted.
“I am ready to go but please be fair to us. We also have a family to raise and the severance package is just nice to tide over before I could find back another job.”
Johnson also realised that his age could be one main reason why he is being replaced together with his colleague as the company wants new young blood to refresh the company’s reorgansational plan.
Already, before he left, he got wind that his replacement will be someone from India – something which rubs more salt into his gaping wounds.
As Singapore continues to grabble with the huge influx of foreign workers in our midst who compete head on with us for jobs, our labour law needs to be tightenend so that our local PMETs will receive better protection from unscrupulous employers out to replace us with cheaper younger foreigners.
If not, we will see more jobless well-educated PMETs looking for work fruitlessly and eventually becoming a huge social problem for the country.
Written by: Gilbert Goh
Editor’s Note: Johnson will be making a complaint to MOM soon with his colleague.