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Nov 14, 2008

DBS Retrench 900 Jobs


Labour chief Lim Swee Say has expressed his disappointment in the sudden decision by DBS Bank to cut 900 jobs.

In a statement, Mr Lim said that the bank had not consulted with the DBS Staff Union on other alternatives to cutting costs. As a result, the perception on the ground is that DBS Bank decided on retrenchment as a first resort.

He added that this has weakened the trust between the management and union, and that the reaction on the ground is critical and highly negative. Mr Lim said that "trust takes a long time to build, but a short time to destroy."

His message came in an eight-paragraph statement to the media, which urged companies not to use retrenchment as the first resort.

He stressed that whether retrenchment will reach a high of 30,000 next year, like in 1998, will depend on how companies conduct themselves during this downturn.

It was not that the National Trades Union Congress demanded zero retrenchment, but that the company should explore alternatives with the union. For example, ways to cut cost and save jobs include having a shorter work week, reducing the year-end bonus, and re-training of excess manpower.

And if retrenchment is still unavoidable after mutual consultations, Mr Lim pledged that unions will stand by the management to help explain, and "carry the ground".

In response, DBS defended its decision, and said that the cuts affect 3.5 per cent of junior ranks, compared to 16 per cent of senior management. The bank also said a hiring freeze was already in place before it decided on retrenchments.

It had also thought long and hard about cutting wages, but decided against it due to different labour laws in countries where the bank has branches in.

When contacted, other banks like OCBC said they will engage the union when making major decisions concerning employees.

OCBC Bank and UOB Bank have also denied rumours that they were cutting staff. A week ago, UOB said that it would only use retrenchment as a last resort.

While it was business as usual on Friday, it was D-day for some staff at DBS Bank who had till the end of the week to know if they still had their jobs.

According to some staff members, those who had been retrenched were older employees and holding positions in middle and senior management. Their duties were also expected to be outsourced or taken over by junior officers.

In fact, some junior officers said morale is still "high" amongst their group. One even said that he would "take it in his stride" and find another job if he was axed.

But older bank officers said they were saddened by the news despite the substantial pay packages retrenched staff would receive. They were also "worried" not only for themselves but for colleagues they had worked with for years.

DBS Bank has said that officers asked to leave will get one month's pay for every year of service, plus medical benefits and staff mortgage benefits for another six months.

Besides advice and counselling, DBS has also given its retrenched staff a list of 20 other companies who are hiring.

Channel NewsAsia also understands that Singapore's branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland is not seriously affected by the company's worldwide 3,000 job cut. Those affected are from RBS' global banking and markets divisions.



Source : ChannelNewsAsia
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