View Full Version : An Affront to Democracy

30-11-2003, 03:10 AM
In most democratically and politically developed nations, the right to strike when working conditions are unfair is almost guaranteed. So long as things don't get violent, people should be able to protest peacefully if negotiations breakdown.

Ministers and government officials should respect that businesses should be run as businesses. They should respect the individual's right to be unhappy with their employer.

But in Singapore......



Singapore will intervene if Singapore Airlines pilots strike

SINGAPORE (AP) - The government will step in if disgruntled pilots strike over a festering wage dispute with the city-state's national airline, the deputy prime minister was quoted as saying Saturday.

"The pilots, the leaders of this group, have to think carefully, do they really want to take on the government?'' Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was reported as saying in the Straits Times newspaper.

"I don't want to do you in, but I don't want anybody to do Singapore in,'' Lee said.

The Airline Pilots Association of Singapore union has not said that it plans to strike, but its members last week voted out the union's leadership - claiming they caved in too easily to Singapore Airlines in negotiations over wage cuts and layoffs last spring.

More than 180 pilots were laid off during the height of the SARS outbreak last spring, while others took wage cuts of between 11 and 16.5 percent.

The report said the ruling People's Action Party was concerned a pilot's strike would hurt SIA's reputation and bottom-line. SIA pilots went on strike in 1980.

The airline has said the cost-cutting measures were necessary to keep one of the world's most profitable airlines afloat.

Lee, the son of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, is slated to replace Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong by 2005.

The pilots ousted their leaders after SIA posted a 306 million Singapore dollar (US$177 million) profit for the July-September period last month. Lee is the third minister in a week to issue a warning to SIA's pilots.

Opposition groups have criticized the government for meddling in the union's internal affairs.

"Strong-arm tactics by the government to force the union to accept their terms cannot inspire workers to give their best,'' said Chee Soon Juan, the Singapore Democratic Party leader.

The Airline Pilots Association and Lee's office were not immediately available for comment. Singapore Airlines is majority owned by Temasek Holdings, the government's investment arm. - AP

30-11-2003, 11:08 AM
I do happen to know some past and present sia pilots and what i know is that they earn big bucks and what sia is doing is to reign in the escalating costs. I may not agree with their tactics but i do see a need for companies, not just sia to reign in their costs to remain competitive. If the aim was to get rid of trouble makers, then i would not agree to their tactics but if it was for the survival and continued prosperity of the company and its remaining employees then i am all for it. I also thought that they were adequately compensated in the retrenchment exercise. I suppose the pilots were trying to preserve their golden goose. Mind you these people can afford to buy yacths and stay in landed properties in Singapore and as far as i know they earn much more than their malaysian counterparts dollar for dollar before taking into consideration the exchange rate. In effect they would probably be earning more than twice their malaysian counterparts.

30-11-2003, 01:51 PM
true saml, they are paid well. but the reason why pilots and doctors and people in positions of such high responsibility have to be paid well is because they have to be in a good frame of mine. would you like it if you knew the guy who's flying your plane is worrying about where he's going to get the money to pay the mortgage, pay the car loan, so on and so forth?

they have to be individuals who are most at ease with their state in life. apart from anything the training they go through is rigorous, and only the creme de la creme get in. and when they do fly planes the concentration is 100%, unlike an office job where you can afford to nod off and day dream every now and then. hence i can expect them to be paid top dollar. i sure hope they are paid very well.

apart from anything pilots do not retire at 55 or 60 like other employees do. they have an expiry date on them. a lot of it also has to do with health conditions, so although it may seem that they are earning a lot, in the long term they are risking stability for that price.

but the question is not whether they are getting enough. they could be getting a million bucks a month for all we know.

the real crux of the issue is whether it is correct for the government to intervene everytime there is some dispute with employees of organisations.

it is a democratic right to dislike the terms of your employment and work conditions, but what lee hsien loong is telling the workers is that they should stomach and swallow whatever is given to them and not question.

is that really democracy?

in the west it is a guaranteed freedom to protest whenever there is a dispute as to such issues. mind you, people who go on strike do not do it for fun. they lose their earnings for the day, days or weeks they take off. it is no cup of tea, but they have to do it in order to make a stand.

i have spoken to people who have gone on strike before. it takes a lot of effort to get together and mobilise. and when they do do it, they usually have very specific terms, sometimes drafted in detail can be pages and pages and pages in length. it is not a succinct point like "oh we want more money so let's pick up some cardboard and write a bunch of words and go on strike". it is a lot more than that - very much more.

another thing to take into consideration - for a society as closed and conservative as singapore, to have people go on strike is a Big Thing. i think they had a lot to consider psychologically and culturally before undertaking this action.

all this effort is not done by people who want to take the day off. au contraire, it is by people who want to be heard.

the question is, is the singapore government respecting their right to be heard? or are they just silencing them for the better?


30-11-2003, 02:22 PM

Over here we are no better. Many many years ago when mas was still new, there was an attempt to strike. All the union leaders were arrested under isa and when they came out their union was but a shadow of its former self. I don't know if anyone out there remembers this, probably the older timers will.I think it was in the early 70's. National interest, it seems was involved.

30-11-2003, 03:49 PM
i was not born yet.

but if that was the case, then shame on us.

i hope that we have developed politically and socially to respect one's freedom to disagree.


30-11-2003, 04:34 PM
wah you so young one!

30-11-2003, 04:44 PM
i'd like to think of it as "old enough".


but sorry saml, i totally cannot identify with the 70s!


Cool Hand Luke
30-11-2003, 08:50 PM
Perhaps the Singapore Government is interfering to protect its investments? After all, Singapore Airlines is majority owned by Temasek Holdings, the government's investment arm.


01-12-2003, 02:01 AM
then it is temasek holdings that should do the negotiations, not employ the government to use *politics* and *threats*, no?


01-12-2003, 08:27 AM
I suppose that if everything is done in accordance with the law, then the politicians do not have to step in and that is including the right to be represented by unions as well as the right to retrench staff. The problem with companies is that sometimes they are bound by a greater law, i.e. public opinion. They may have done everything within the law i.e. offering retrenchment benefits in accordance or even better than that provided by the law but some of these unions go to the media with their own ideas of how the company can do without the retrenchment but when these people are asked for a 'hair cut' in terms of their benefits , these people will raise hell. As you can guess it i work on the management's side so i can see their side. If they are so good at running companies, they should be running the company instead of taking pot shots at the company.

01-12-2003, 10:56 AM
Growing up in Malaysia the concept of 'striking' was baffling to me as it simply does not exist in our country - probably one of the major reasons we are so underpaid. But like EJ mentioned, union strikes are well organised and they have lawyers with highly specific requests. Not that they always get what they want though. I believe this process is very healthy at it attempts to strike a balance of power between employer and employee. In Malaysia, the employer is all powerful.

I don't know much about working conditions are in Singapore, but the fact that the government is meddling with the affair is a)not really surprising but yet b) quite disgusting. SIA is in fact owned by the government so I can see why they would meddle - all about making money.

Costs savings? Yes, I think it is a trend (or so I hear) in Singapore but costs savings does not equal to wage cuts. In big businesses or corporations, wages of non executive employees are typically very low when expressed as a percentage of the total costs (under 10%). Most of the money goes to other things, marketing, growth, investing, etc etc etc. Also, a big chunk goes to the executives, the CEO and all his henchmen. If they really want to save costs, perhaps SIA should start with them.

Cool Hand Luke
01-12-2003, 11:17 AM
Forgive my dinosaur view on this. I still subscribe to old fashioned notion of willing employer and willing employee. If SIA's pilots are not happy with their employer, resign and join other airlines. In my place of work, I always remind myself of this. If I am not happy with my employer, then I would not bite the hand that feeds me. I take the honourable way out and resign and take whatever skills (as well as shortfalls) somewhere else. Well, I did warn you people that I am an old man and I am a dreamer. I suppose such ideas do not apply in the present world but whether they do or not, I guess I still stick to what I believe in.

"Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand for lifting food to't?"

(Shakespeare's King Lear, Act 3. Scene 4)


01-12-2003, 11:20 AM
timo this is funny you should mention about cutting wages of employees.

i have spoken to a few CEOs before who have had rough times with their companies.

the first person with the wage cut is the top guy. then the board of directors.

they touch their workers last, if they absolutely have to. by then no one would complain much, because they'll really see the effort the top guys are making to keep everyone happy.

but when it's done bottom to top, that is plain dirty. the upper management obviously see middle and low employees as pawns in their big game for money.

when i was 18 one of my first jobs was working as a lowly marketer with legend hotel. after a month i quit, it was a horrible job. the woman tried to play smart with me and said that she was not giving me my pay as i did not "work three months and therefore was not entitled to a cent".

i walked up to the GM of legend hotel and told him i was calling the labour department in. my cheque was on the table in half an hour.

but a whole lot of other people got duped. why? because malaysians have this idea that they are there as employees to serve the employer.

which is why a lot of us stomach being shouted at, having papers thrown, being made to stay back and work hours longer than what is legal, having benefits cut, being forced to take leave on days one does not want to, etc. etc. etc.

we have to get educated - both employee and employer are both crucial parties. one cannot exist without the other.

singapore's crushing of any opposition is so scary. i am in the midst of reading "lee's law", about how lee kuan yew literally obliterated jeyaratnam, his opponent, bankrupting him and forcing him to nothingness. purportedly when jeyaratnam walks into any restaurant in johor or singapore, people don't accept payment.

it was also detailed in TIME how the government would redraw the boundaries of constituencies in order to change election results.

but what really pisses me off, is how muslim girls in school are not allowed to wear the headdress. give me a break, kids in singapore bring the latest mobile phones and gadgets to school, but they're not allowed to follow their religious orientation?

scary stuff for a small place.


01-12-2003, 11:25 AM
Here same also if not worst.

01-12-2003, 11:28 AM
saml, when has the government ever been "in your face" to other races in malaysia about how they want to practice their beliefs?

i'm not saying msia is good. but i definitely think that where human rights and politics are concerned we are better.


01-12-2003, 11:37 AM
You really think so? I beg to differ. At least over there if someone does wrong and they get caught they have to face the consequences. Over here money,power and politics can get you out of all kinds of sticky situations.

01-12-2003, 11:52 AM
don't be so sure. I have talked to people in Singapore and they have very interesting observations. The way things are run in Singapore (as explained to me) are even worse than what you know of Malaysia.

We see the sterile veneer and facade as presented by Singapore but you don't see the goings-on behind the scenes. They have a small population and a powerful Lee family to run things the way they want.

01-12-2003, 12:05 PM
i totally agree with kwchang. i have dirty stories about that island i cannot mention.

it's a sterile image they project. like how americans perceive the world as people who hate their freedom, whilst they're out on a crusade for humanity. it's all image.


Cool Hand Luke
01-12-2003, 12:27 PM
Life is a contradiction. It depends on which side of the bread your butter is spread on. Let's take a wild fantasy (and it is indeed rather wild) that I am in the Lee's clan. With so much opportunities and true enough, plus initiative, hard work and intelligence on my part, the world (of Singapore) is at my feet. I would only sing praises. If I am in the Jeyaratnam's clan, my outlook would be quite different. Same applies to Malaysia. Same applies to every country in the world. On a smaller and more personal scale, same applies in the corporations we work in. Thus that was why I posted that quotation from King Lear: "Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand for lifting food to't?" Why bite the hand that feeds you?

Through times, men form alliances and make enemies. There will be times when allies become enemies and enemies become allies. But to add to your comment, Chang, you are quite right. The Lee family is a very powerful family in Singapore and you cross swords with them at your own peril. In the same way, the Mathathir family is a very powerful family in Malaysia. And the Kennedy family is a very powerful family in the US.

Cool Hand Luke
01-12-2003, 01:50 PM
The Straits Times. Singapore (1st December 2003)

SIA Pilots: Law to be Tightened

THE Government yesterday hardened its stand on Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilots, saying it will tighten the law to remove union members' right to have the final say in any negotiations with management. This right, unique to the Air Line Pilots' Association-Singapore (Alpa-S), requires its elected leaders to get the approval of members before it can conclude any collective agreement or settle a dispute with the national carrier.

In all other unions in Singapore, the elected leaders have the power to bargain and make a deal with a company's management which is binding on their members. To remove the right, the Trade Union Act will be amended, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office that arose following discussions in the Cabinet, and several warnings by Ministers in the past fortnight about the pilots' adversarial approach in booting out their union leaders.

The Government's latest move to end the existing arrangement suggests that it was a major cause of the often rocky relations between Alpa-S and SIA management as negotiations were drawn out and often ended in deadlock. Since 1980, at least 20 disputes have driven a wedge between them. In the last dispute over wage cuts, the need to consult members is said to have slowed down negotiations, although the final deal was approved by members.

But SIA's management is not blameless in the repeated episodes of protracted negotiations. In chiding it, the Government said: 'SIA must improve its human-resource management... SIA will have to pay competitive wages to retain the services of its good staff and gain the loyalty of its pilots and other staff.' In a further signal that it will do all it must to prevent another cycle of acrimony, the Government also took away the right of two non-Singapore citizens to sit on the Alpa-S executive committee. The statement did not say why the Manpower Ministry is rescinding its approval, which non-Singaporeans must get before they can become union leaders.

Internal politics and simmering discontent in the way wage deals were cut are said to have led Alpa-S members to oust their leaders. This prompted Acting Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen, labour chief Lim Boon Heng and Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to warn the pilots that they will not allow any standoff to threaten Singapore's aviation industry.

The statement pointed out that the industry creates jobs and economic growth. Already, $3.9 billion has been invested in Changi Airport, with another $2.6 billion planned. It provides jobs for 90,000 workers, while SIA employs 12,000, of whom 1,700 are pilots and 6,400 cabin crew. The travel industry was almost routed by Sars and terrorism and, more recently, Singapore's status as an air hub has been threatened by low-cost airlines and newer, longer-range aircraft as well as neighbouring airports. Against such a backdrop, 'we cannot allow confrontational industrial relations to add to the problems of SIA, Changi Airport and our travel industry. It will put jobs and Singapore's economy at risk,' said the statement.

The National Trades Union Congress last night said it supported the Government's call for management to take the lead in promoting 'common understanding and improving communications' with employees, and hoped SIA and Alpa-S could put the current episode behind them and work together. When contacted, Alpa-S spokesman Captain P. James said he was surprised that the Act was being amended. 'This clause was actually a safeguard put in place after the industrial action in 1980 to ensure that excos cannot commence industrial action without consulting members or accept any packages that are detrimental to members.'

THE two foreigners who can no longer sit on the executive committee of the Air Line Pilots' Association-Singapore (Alpa-S) are Malaysian citizens with permanent-resident status in Singapore. They were not named by the statement from the Prime Minister's Office, but a Straits Times check found that they are Captain Ryan Goh and Captain Lee Chee Kun. They are expected to be told of the Government move today.

Captain Goh, who has been flying for more than 25 years, has been a member of Alpa-S since it was formed in 1981 and was its vice-president for industrial relations at one point. He is a council member in the current 22-member executive committee, which was ousted in a vote of no-confidence by members at an extraordinary general meeting on Nov 17. Pilot sources said he had helped draft the petition calling for the meeting, although he did not sign it. When contacted, Captain Goh declined to comment, saying he has not been told about the Government's move. However he added: 'If the Government says now they want to impose certain restrictions, then it's not my call, it's the Government's call.'

Captain Lee, who has been flying for 16 years, has been an Alpa-S member since 1987, but has served on the committee for only the last two years. The father of two is a committee member in charge of public affairs and runs the union's charity projects. He was nonchalant when The Straits Times broke the news to him. 'These things are not important to me. If you're there to serve, you can just be a good member and do other things outside the exco,' he said.

01-12-2003, 02:18 PM
that is so singapore government.

can't get it your way? change the law.

spoil sports.


02-12-2003, 08:26 AM
Perhaps maybe because Temasek which is the largest shareholder of SIA is government owned?

02-12-2003, 08:38 AM
I guess this is singapore's way of dealing with pesky flies. Whack it with a hammer before it breeds and spoil the whole cake. Whether it is appropriate, it certainly works. The cake is more important than the fly/ies and how they died does not matter.

02-12-2003, 08:47 AM
Yup. And the Singaporeans are so used to it. After all, they grew up with the mindset of a military state. Do not ever question your commander in chief.

02-12-2003, 09:28 AM
you think it works saml? the society will implode one day. i've spoken to singaporeans who are really pissed off with what is going on but find they have no way to stand up and say it.

the reason why singaporeans have not made so much "noise" about things.... they have money and can afford things. when money goes good, people don't really mind.

the situation will not be the so peachy if this was not the case.


02-12-2003, 11:31 AM
It is said by the Singaporeans themeslevs that they are

1 Kiasu
2 Kiaboh (fear of not having enoguh).
3 Kiasi (cowardly)
4 Kiabor (henpecked)
5 Kiachenghoo (fear of the government)

Number 5 is last but not least! A fearful society indeed.

02-12-2003, 11:42 AM
si loh


02-12-2003, 11:44 AM
ej, to answer your question, I suppose there will be detractors to any regime. The question is whether people are unhappy enough to want to leave permanently. I think the reason why people would want to leave is that the place becomes too expensive for them if they want to maintain their existing lifestyles. I know a few guys who have 'migrated' to malaysia. They have sold off their landed property and bought a small condo which they go back to occasionally and bought property in Johor when they want to spend the rest of their lives and they go around in 7 series having a jolly good retired time. They do not fear the govt but they would not do anything to upset it cos they have no need to and they are quite happy with the way they are.

Cool Hand Luke
02-12-2003, 12:34 PM
Govt Acting to Prevent 'Broken Heads' at SIA

SENIOR Minister Lee Kuan Yew did not mince words yesterday when he warned that there would be 'broken heads' if nothing was done about the escalating tensions between Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilots and management. The Government had to step in early because if it allowed the 'test of the wills' to continue, the pilots would take industrial action that would drain the national carrier of hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of one to three months.

Saying he would not allow anyone to endanger SIA, whose early survival he had personally overseen, he sounded this warning to those on both sides at the airline: 'We are telling them, both management and unions, you play this game, there are going to be broken heads. Let's stop it... 'We're going to solve this before it gets troublesome, and solve it we will.' He laid out the reasons why the Government preferred swift action early to avoid 'severe consequences' later. First, the situation was urgent because the pilots' collective agreement, which expires in March, was up for negotiation soon. Second, the airline industry is one in which success hinges on providing an exceptional level of service. If either pilots or cabin crew at SIA choose to work to rule, and slow down operations, the airline would 'lose that cache'. Cathay Pacific could choose to do so in Hong Kong, but he said 'you are not going to have that in Singapore'.

'I will not allow that,' he said before 700 business leaders attending the Global Brand Forum Singapore. Good industrial relations were critical to Singapore's success, he said, and those who want to break the rules and sour such ties will, in effect, be taking on the Government itself. 'If you are confrontational, either the union gives way or the union is able to knock the Government down,' he said. His comments came a day after the Government announced plans to tighten the law so that members of the Air Line Pilots' Association -Singapore (Alpa-S) no longer have the final say on union negotiations with the management.

The move follows Alpa-S members' decision to boot out its 22-member executive committee on Nov 17, for reportedly being too soft with management. The committee had struck a deal with the airline in July for wage cuts and unpaid leave, at a time when SIA had suffered losses from the Sars fallout. It appeared that the pilots' resentment grew when the airline announced a $306-million profit for its July to September quarter. Yesterday, Mr Lee reminded Alpa-S members that they had voted in support of the wage deal, which would see them receive an additional 15 per cent on top of a lump-sum payout to make up for the wage cuts, if the airline hit $600 million in profit this year. He also described the $306-million quarterly profit as a 'glimmer of recovery' in an industry facing very grave challenges. 'No one can say how mainline carriers will fare in the next one to two years. Budget carriers are coming into Asia and it's a matter of time that they will pose the same challenge to mainline carriers as they do in America.'

Criticising the pilots for ignoring these challenges, he said: 'SIA has had troubles with the pilots for a long time. As I've said, pilots believe they're special. They've got huge egos, I've been told.' To back his point, he recounted how the pilots threatened industrial action last year when they were asked to take their breaks in economy-class seats instead of in business class. The number of business-class seats had been reduced when the airline introduced bigger SpaceBeds in first class. Mr Lee's own history with the pilots' union extends much further back. In 1980, when Australian pilots at SIA led a work-to-rule that disrupted several international flights, he intervened to end the stand-off, telling the pilots he 'won't allow anyone to do Singapore in'.

02-12-2003, 01:47 PM
This Lee Kuan Yew guy, whoever he is (what does senior minister mean?) sounds very Hussein-ish to me. Perhaps someone should tell him to go lie in a coffin somewhere in preparation.

02-12-2003, 02:17 PM

If you own a company and your employee try to hold your company to ransom, I bet you are going to do what LKY is doing.

Cool Hand Luke
02-12-2003, 02:19 PM
Well said, Jericho.


02-12-2003, 03:06 PM
I tend to agree that whilst it is appreciated that the skill involved in flying requires a lot of training and we all put our lives in the pilots hands, has any one given thought as to what sort of training our public transport drivers have and they are responsible for 40 plys lives. Are the lives of those taking buses any less precious than those taking planes. What has the government done to regulate the bus drivers to ensure they are competent as well as to ensure that they get sufficient rest in between journeys?

They earn probably close to half a million ringgit a year and in terms of numbers our bus drivers probably takes more passengers than these pilots and you know how much these bus drivers earn, probably less than 20 thousand a year and these people are bitching about what a tough life they have. I do not begrudge the amount of money they make but if it is going to affect the survival or even the existence of the company , then firm action has to be taken.

02-12-2003, 03:19 PM
But Lee Kuan Yew does not own SIA does he? Even if he did changing the laws to suit his company is bull****. Why not make embezzling money legal while he is at it?

02-12-2003, 04:03 PM

You are right, LKY does not own SIA but LKY works for the Singapore government and through Temasek Holding, the Government own the majority share of SIA.

Thus as an efficient and competent servant of the Government, he has to protect his employer interest at all cost. He is not looking after his own interest but rather the government's whom he works for.

02-12-2003, 04:52 PM
At least these public servants are seen to be looking after the interests of the government unlike our local hero who plundered the company upon taking over. You know when they did the mas cargo/catering complex, the facade was specified as some kind of aluminium sandwiched with pu and anyone who took the contract to build the building had to purchase the claddings from one of his personal companies and you know the cost of those claddings, it was like 3 times the price of imported granite on a per square foot basis. Those people who worked on the project would know. At the end what happens, the government has to come in to bail them out and now mas is 'making' money after the garmen has taken over billions of dollars of debt and the tax payers are again drawn in to the picture.

Cool Hand Luke
02-12-2003, 06:02 PM
Timo - What has LKY's attempt to protect Singapore Government's investment got to do with the fantasy of legalising of embezzlement of money? I am a bit lost here. Please help clear up my confusion. Thanks.

02-12-2003, 10:27 PM
what does lee kuan yew have to do with this? it's his son lee hsien loong causing the ruckus now.

i guess you guys would set a precedent then, that whenever corporations want to change the rules of the game, put people out of a job, start payiing them less and cut their benefits, that'd be fine, no one would have the right to protest, because if they did the government would come in and stifle them.

and all corporations need to do to make sure that they can squeeze the rights and life out of employees would be to sell a few per cent of their share to the government, so that when the time arises and they want to cut costs, they can do so without fear....

for if you protest, there is the government looking out to get you.


Cool Hand Luke
03-12-2003, 11:27 AM
EJ – It is much more than just the Singapore government against employees of SIA in that “they can squeeze the rights and life out of employees”. The Singapore government has actually blasted SIA management (Straits Times 1st December) for not responding to grouses of its employees. On the other hand, it also felt very strongly that the ousting of executive committee (under presidency of Captain Dilip Padbidri) of Air Line Pilots’ Association-Singapore on 17th November was 'mischievous'. It felt that it was instigated with ‘shop floor votes’ led by Captains Ryan Goh and Lee Chee Kun, both Malaysians who have permanent-resident status in Singapore (sure hell lot of gratitude and if we look at my willing employer – willing employee theory, if these two Malaysians are so unhappy, why don’t they return to Malaysia and fly MAS planes?). The Manpower Ministry formally notified the pilots' association that the two foreigners can no longer serve on its executive committee, a move sources said was intended to signal that Singaporeans ought to be playing a more active role in the union. Now, the immediate past president, Captain Mok Hin Choon and first-timer Captain Syed Abdul Kader Syed Ali have submitted their nominations and members will cast their votes to elect a new president for the union. Captain Mok is thought to be a strong supporter of the bigger picture of the ‘well being’ of Singapore as a country while Captain Syed belongs to the camp which ousted the current executive committee. The story has yet to play out and runs its course.

Meanwhile, the Singapore government is concerned. The following is an extract from The Straits Times: As controversy brewed over recent moves by Singapore Airlines pilots, the Government yesterday spelt out its position on the issue and steps it was taking as a result. On Friday, Acting Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen warned that the Government has to protect the culture of tripartism. While he did not mention the pilots explicitly, his message was clear - their confrontational approach could spread like a fire to other unions.

This is the reproduction of the Singapore government's statement and Dr Ng's speech:

“The Cabinet has discussed the state of industrial relations in Singapore and in particular the impact of recent developments in the Air Line Pilots' Association-Singapore (Alpa-S) union on the aviation industry and other unions. Aviation is a key industry creating jobs and economic growth. Considerable investments have been made to build up our air hub status and the air travel sector: $3.9 billion on Changi Airport, and an additional $2.6 billion planned for current projects. Changi Airport provides jobs for 35,000 permanent workers, and 55,000 contract or temporary workers. SIA employs 12,000 staff; of which about 1,700 are pilots (1,000 local, 400 Permanent Resident and 300 foreign) and 6,400 are cabin crew. Our economy, especially the travel sector, had been under severe stress from terrorism and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars). These threats still exist. Further, low cost airlines, newer airplanes with longer flight capabilities and other airports in neighbouring countries will challenge SIA and Changi Airport's position as a premier air hub. We cannot allow confrontational industrial relations to add to the problems of SIA, Changi Airport and our travel industry. It will put jobs and Singapore's economy at risk.

The relationship between SIA management and their pilots' union has been troubled. They have had repeated episodes of protracted negotiations, many resulting in deadlock. The latest settlement could be reached only after mediation by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Industrial Arbitration Court. Even after agreeing to this settlement, 55 per cent of members subsequently voted out the negotiating team. We cannot afford a continuation of these dysfunctional relations marked by confrontations and stand-offs.To prevent another such cycle of acrimony, MOM will amend the Trade Unions Act to ensure that the rules of registered trade unions enable executive committees to negotiate and commit to collective agreements without the need for formal ratification by the general membership or the branches. This practice of obtaining ratification from the general membership is unique to Alpa-S' constitution. MOM will also rescind approval for the two non-citizens currently on the Executive Committee of Alpa-S. These changes of themselves will not produce good industrial relations.

For this to happen, SIA management and pilots must put the past behind them and start anew. They must break away from their old attitudes and move towards consensus and cooperation. SIA must improve its human resource management. Management must forge a common understanding with its employees on the way ahead and explain its plans to grow the company. SIA will have to pay competitive wages to retain the services of their good staff and gain the loyalty of its pilots and other staff. Employees will be incentivised to be active partners of change if they can share in the rewards when the company performs well. Such changes will raise morale and increase cooperation MOM will help SIA and its unions, including Alpa-S, to achieve flexible and responsive wage systems that adequately reward and motivate good performers. Our harmonious industrial climate based on tripartite partnership is a key pillar for our economic and social progress. It has enabled us to make necessary changes, like painful wage and CPF cuts, to move our economy forward. The Government will not allow any group to undermine this vital factor in securing good jobs and economic growth for our people”.

For those who are interested to know how much pilots earn. Here it is. Alpa-S said in June the basic pay of an SIA captain flying a B-747 is between $10,000 and $19,500 monthly, whereas Cathay Pacific pays $21,000 to $34,000 and Qantas, $16,000 to $25,500. A Straits Times check showed that the starting tax-free salary of an Emirates captain is $11,234. As for wage competitiveness, Australian Steve Quilkey, 43, an SIA captain, is leaving after 12 years to join Hong Kong-based Dragonair at the lower rank of first officer. But he said he will earn almost as much as his captain's pay at SIA, and expects to be made a captain within 18 months or so. Well. Good luck to him and all those who want to join other airlines. I wonder how much does MAS pay its pilots?

03-12-2003, 12:16 PM
CHL, it is the principle behind it that counts - the government should not meddle.

either way, i think it's unhealthy for capitalism if the government is participating... whether it be on or against the employees or the employer.

in italy the government refused to step in when fiat had problems, and theirs is much more dire. the law of fair competition dictates that companies find what is best and what isn't through a series of trials and errors on their own, not government whims and fancies. this is even though it may be crippling on the economy in the short run.

whenever government's interfere in private businesses, things do not turn out as efficient as they could be. ( a few ideas in malaysia spring to mind.... no clues! ;))

if the government is able to keep efficiency up, it's certainly not keeping morale and motivation up... strict measures do not ensure a healthy working environment.

if government's are to dictate the life of corporate business, then we are no better than a communist state (with slight variations).


03-12-2003, 12:17 PM
I tend to agree with chl on this issue. If a person is so unhappy with his package they can go work in another airline who will pay them more and because these airlines are so screwed they would end up bankrupt and where do these pilots go to. It is a choice one has to make. Security or immediate gratification?Even Swissair had to go down. If operating costs become so high that the company is not feasible operationally, do the pilots expect the government to bail them out as most of them do since 'national interests' are at stake.

Cool Hand Luke
03-12-2003, 12:32 PM
Well, for once, I cannot see the Singapore government going to stand and watches its economy (of a small island) goes down to the dogs because of a few prima donna pilots. Principles count for nothing because if the economy - via tourism and related industries - are hit, then there would be a host of economic and social problems. Perhaps we should ask the Singaporeans how they feel about it. As Chang has indicated earlier, Singaporeans do not necessarily agree with their government and its policies but when it comes to a bunch of non-citizens trying to hold their country's economy at ransom, they know whom they are giving the middle finger to. And already in the coffee shops and eating places, anger was being shown. The last bit was from my contacts in Singapore.


03-12-2003, 01:23 PM
Since Italy is a member of the EU, the EU must approve any proposed aid by its 15 member states to assure that they meet rules designed to curtail state aid except under limited circumstances. Therefore it explain why the refusal of the Italy government to step in. I doubt the Italy government will still stand and watches if there is not such ruling in EU.

Government's interfere in private businesses is not always bad. Just look at how things worked out in the private or public sectors in Singapore is a good example.

No matter what, each and every government will definitely try to interfere in private business be it directly or indirectly as long as its economy is at stake. You can't expect a government to forego National interests because of principles. National interests has to comes first and at all cost if required.

03-12-2003, 01:31 PM
From today's Star newspaper:

Government will help if problems occur, assures Pak Lah


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will continue its business-friendly policies towards investors and, in the event of problems, will act as the engine of economic recovery to help the private sector grow.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi gave this assurance when he met representatives from the private sector and businessmen at separate functions here, yesterday.

“There will not be much changes. When problems occur, the Government will step in as the engine of economic recovery.

“It is a happy arrangement. But the Government wants to see the private sector lead the way and act as the engine of growth for the economy,” he said.

Abdullah said the Government would continue to ensure that the country remains peaceful and stable, adding that efforts were being carried out to improve the public service delivery system.

“Foreign companies will have to deal with the system at one time or another and the improvements in the system will affect them,” he said.

Turning to a visiting delegation from the Singapore Manufacturers’ Association, he said: “We hope that despite the problems we have, Singapore will remain committed to Malaysia.”

The group had earlier met International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz to discuss issues of trade between the two countries.

Rafidah, who hosted the open house, told reporters Malaysia would be attending a trade seminar next year in the republic to meet Singapore counterparts and promote various sectors.

“We have indicated to them that we have potential in information and communication technology (ICT) and biotechnology as well as other industries that require land,” she said, adding that the seminar would address a new generation of Singaporean businessmen.

Earlier in the day, in a keynote address at the Malaysia-India Business Forum at the Putra World Trade Centre, here, Abdullah also invited companies from India to invest in Malaysia in the ICT and biotechnology sectors.

The Prime Minister said the Indians had been actively involved in the ICT sector, with 56 firms with equity from India-based companies operating in the Multimedia Super Corridor.

He singled out Infosys chairman Narayana Murthy and Satyam Com-puter Services chairman Ramalinga Raju as “active and valuable members” of the MSC's International Advisory Panel.

Abdullah said many Indian software programmers were also providing their skills and talents to Malaysian IT companies, adding that such collaboration must be further encouraged.

On biotechnology, which he said was a relatively new area requiring large investments of funds and knowledge, Abdullah added: “Malaysia possesses the richest biodiversity on the planet. It is a gift, a competitive advantage that is God-given and we must find ways to harvest it to the best of our abilities.”

He said to improve the leverage on the country’s biodiversity, the Government started the BioValley project to conduct research on agro biotechnology, nutraceutics and pharmaceutics as well as genomics and molecular biology.

The business forum is part of a series of activities, including a trade exhibition and fashion show, to mark the Incredible India 2003 promotion this week.

Cool Hand Luke
03-12-2003, 01:56 PM
Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew issued a stern warning to Singapore Airlines pilots on Monday that the Government will not allow them to go slow or work-to-rule, which would damage the airline's reputation and cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in a matter of months. He made the remarks in a speech and a question-and-answer session at the Global Branding Forum. He also spoke about his style of governing compared to that of the younger ministers and the branding of Singapore. The following are excerpts:

"Right at this moment, we're having a little problem with our pilots. Because of Sars, Singapore Airlines lost a few hundred million dollars that quarter. They persuaded, with the help of the Ministry of Manpower, the unions - not just the pilots' union but the five unions across the board in SIA - to take pay cuts, adjust work schedules and generally trim down. But the second quarter, July to September, they showed a profit. Whereupon the pilots say: 'We've been taken for a ride.' They sack the committee. But they approved it and this is just the first glimmer of recovery in an industry that's facing very grave challenges.

No one can say how mainline carriers will fare in the next one, two years. Budget carriers are coming into Asia and it's a matter of time before they pose the same challenge to mainline carriers as they do in America and now increasingly in Europe. But the pilots' union is not interested in that. They just say: 'You squeezed us when the going was bad, now we want it back.' Well, we're not going to have that. Both management at SIA and the pilots' union, and all the unions in SIA, know that when the Government decides that its industrial relations is a key factor in its progress, in its economic well-being, and it says no, it means no. And if they're confrontational, then either the union gives way or the union is able to knock the Government down.

Now in Europe, when Air France goes on strike, sometimes the minister has to resign or Air France management has to make adjustments. I can assure you that in Singapore, when we decide that they are breaking the rules of the game, the unspoken rules as to how we survive, how we have prospered, then either their head is broken or our bones are broken. And when that is understood, we then talk sense.

I come back to the pilots. They're a special breed. The pilots know that the company has spent half a million or three-quarters of a million dollars training a person to fly a 747. So, it's a capital-intensive industry and if they decide to go slow or walk out, then all that capital is just going to lie frozen on the ground. So after the Sars debacle, SIA lost money for the first time in its history, they accepted the pay cuts, no-pay leave, certain adjustments in work schedules with a proviso that if SIA makes money, as it makes money it will restore all its cuts. And it goes up to 115 per cent of what was taken away if it proves to be as successful as last year. When - after settling this and voting in favour of the executive committee saying, 'yes, we support this' - SIA makes $300 million in one quarter, they decide 'We'll sack the committee, we're going to take over. This collective agreement ends in a few months, we're going to be tough'.

If we sit back, and SIA has had troubles with the pilots for a long time, as I've said, they think they're special, they've got huge egos, I'm told. So, for instance, when SIA changes first-class seats to totally flat reclining seats and so there are fewer first-class seats. I think now the first-class cabin, from my recollection, has only about 12 seats when there used to be 16 or 18 seats. The captains were allowed, when they were resting, to take a first-class seat which could recline. But now, there are not enough first-class seats. The company says: 'We will pay you the difference.' No, they want the first-class seat. In other words, there'll be fewer than 12 passengers if you have two being used by pilots.

We know that, if we allow this to go on, there'll be a go-slow, there'll be some work-to-rule and we'll get the Cathay Pacific situation. Now you can have that in Hong Kong. You're not going to have that in Singapore. I will not allow that because I literally decided, in the early days, that I will preserve this potential business for Singapore. We had Malayan Airways, which was based here. When we joined Malaysia, we became Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, a joint airline. Then they decided they wanted to go off on their own so we built up workshops in Kuala Lumpur so they could go off. And from that moment, way back in the 1960s, we built ourselves up as an international airline because, where were we going to fly to? From Changi Airport to Sembawang Airport, to Seletar, to Paya Lebar? So we had to go international or nothing.

Today, with our population of three million - plus another one million foreigners, it's four million - we are carrying the loads of Australia, with a population of 20 million, or for that matter, many other airlines. In other words, we're carrying other people's passengers. There's no catchment here. You do that because your service is not only safe, it's not only reliable, but it is exceptionally good. This is a service industry. You have stewards or stewardesses or pilots playing work-to-rule, you lose that cachet. So we are telling them, both management and unions, 'you play this game, there are going to be broken heads'. Let's stop it.

They know what this is all about. We are not fools. We know what the management knows. We know the union side too because we've got unionists on our side and we are going to solve this before it gets troublesome and solve it we will. If we sit back and do nothing and allow this to escalate and test the wills, then it is going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in one, two, three months of nastiness. We are not going to have that.

I belong to the old school. I believe that it is better to be feared than to be loved. My younger colleagues sometimes want to be both. I decided a long time ago that popularity is something volatile. They feel good, they get their bonuses, you're popular. They are squeezed, there's a recession, you're blamed for it, your stocks go down. And the key is not to hold an election when people are not feeling good. I do not believe that popular government means you have to be popular when you govern. I think the best thing to do is to do all the unpopular things when you are governing so that at the end of your term, you have the choice of a date when you feel that they will be most grateful that you've done all these unpopular things and they vote for you. I don't know about branding. I do know that you need a good reputation, not just outside Singapore but within Singapore, with your own people.

This is a place that works, that must work and continue to work because it is based on principles. And the first principle is nobody owes us a living."

Cool Hand Luke
03-12-2003, 02:15 PM
From website of Singapore Airlines:

Major Shareholders
(as at 30 September 2003) Number of shares %
1 Temasek Holdings (Pte) Ltd 56.76%
2 Raffles Nominees (Pte) Ltd 10.91%
3 DBS Nominees (Pte) Ltd 8.28%
4 HSBC (Singapore) Nominees Pte Ltd 4.01%
5 Citibank Nominees Singapore Pte Ltd 3.51%
6 DB Nominees (Singapore) Pte Ltd 1.74%
7 United Overseas Bank Nominees (Pte) Ltd 1.58%
8 Oversea-Chinese Bank Nominees Pte Ltd 0.58%
9 Morgan Stanley Asia (Singapore) Pte 0.38%
0 Chang Shyh Jin 0.33%

From the website of Temasek Holdings: "Temasek Holdings is an investment holding company based in Singapore. Established in 1974, it holds and manages investments in companies which are involved in a wide range of business activities, from port, shipping and logistics, to banking and financial services, airlines, telecoms and media, power and utilities, and rail. Many of these companies are leading companies in Singapore, such as Singapore Airlines, Singapore Telecoms, Singapore Technologies, Neptune Orient Lines-APL, PSA Corporation, DBS Bank and Singapore Power. The listed companies in the Temasek Group represent about 21% of the market capitalization of the Singapore Exchange. Temasek Holdings is wholly-owned by the Minister for Finance (Inc)".

03-12-2003, 02:28 PM
At his age when most would have been satisfied to just sit at the sidelines, he comes out roaring and I am pretty sure he has nothing to prove to the world. He hit the nail on the head when he says that nobody owes them a living. When you have no natural resources and you have even to get your drinking water from a neighbour, who do you depend on, yourself of course! The fact that they have done so well so far speaks volumes of their success. Lesser countries would be living on handouts frm the un. Even more resource rich countries are in a worse shape than them. Probably the newer generation would like to be good guys and that is precisely why his steadying influence is required. In my mind tough measures are required and as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

03-12-2003, 02:54 PM
The quote
"Remember that what's right isn't always popular... and what's popular isn't always right." from the Decision Making Quiz (http://www.usj.com.my/bulletin/upload/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3575) is exactly what he is trying to say.

04-12-2003, 03:03 PM
CHL - Embezzling has no direct tie with this issue here, I just used an extreme example of how law can be changed just to suit one or two people. Perhaps it was a bad example. Another example was the case in India some thirty years ago, the indian president at that time, I believe it was Mrs. Indira Ghandi, changed election laws after the votes had been counted so that she could win the election. Of course there was a big hu-ha, and I don't think anyone would be comfortable with rule changes that are applied retroactively, as would be the case here. You want to change the laws? Do it after this case has been settled. You do not want PR's to be heads of the union, why didn't they abolish that law in the first place? I think the government (or Lee Kuan Yew, whichever you prefer) is just like a spoilt brat always trying to get his way.

And by the way, principles do matter. Or else we might as well brand ourselves a criminal state.

Cool Hand Luke
04-12-2003, 03:17 PM
I beg to differ but I am not going to start an argument when you have already resorted to names calling. You said this in your first post: "This Lee Kuan Yew guy, whoever he is (what does senior minister mean?) sounds very Hussein-ish to me. Perhaps someone should tell him to go lie in a coffin somewhere in preparation". I was going to point out to you then but upon good advices from forum members, I refrained. Now you persisted with: "Think the government (or Lee Kuan Yew, whichever you prefer) is just like a spoilt brat always trying to get his way".

End of discussion from me. I remember somebody very wise said something in this forum about rudeness in this forum. I guess the message hasn't been driven home yet. Nevertheless, I respect your views and your need to voice your opinions in such a manner. Thank you.

04-12-2003, 04:02 PM
I found this bit dated Feb 2003 (correction - 2002) -

It shows how much of Singapore's private sector is controlled by the Lee clan plus a lot of other senior Government officers and Generals.

Maybe people can begin to understand why the Lees has so much to say about SIA and why no one may argue with the way they run things.

04-12-2003, 04:42 PM
So what's wrong with that?

04-12-2003, 05:11 PM
How did they get to own so much in the first place? Based on their high income, they should not be able to. But by twisting certain policies like all S&P agreements for HDB flats must go through Lee & Lee?

06-12-2003, 11:35 PM
just because the Lee family owns a large portion of any business, does not mean that they can use their government positions to assert authority. that is immoral.

if anyone can suggest that that is okay, then why complain about corruption in malaysia/government ppl/cronies using their positions or the positions of those they know to better themselves?

same old thing.


07-12-2003, 09:22 AM
I think there is a distinction between what is happening in singapore and what is happening in malaysia. Of course when the are appointed to those positions, they are paid globally competitive packages. That is only fair and if anyone can prove that they have benefited from their positions aside from the generous packages, they are welcome to file their complaints that there is corruption. Someone has to run these companies and if these people do not run them, someone else will be appointed to do so and be similarly rewarded and if they are known to each other what is the problem? Does it mean that they have to source from somewhere that is outside the circle, the char kwei teow man for instance or the neighbourhood ah long?

In malaysia we have no complaints about who is appointed to head the companies. In the past we have had super cronies whose sole intention was to strip the companies and ransack it and when everything is gone, the government takes it over. There are so many cases, mas,renong,perwaja, bank bumi, and what have you. If these people are able, paying them a few million ringgit to run a company like mas is no problem and i would say fair compensation but to have these people hatch schemes to defraud the company as evidenced by the german cargo center and others, then it is a problem. Even in perwaja there is the case of missing 50+million that was transferred to a non existent company. This policy of creating super cronies is one big cock up and the garmen is trying to reverse the policy by appointing professional managers. I really hope that these people will succeed simply because it would mean that the company would not have to bail them out again at the tax payers expense. But these people are up against politicians who are corrupt and since their appointments are decided by these politicians, the tendency to exert influence over them to grant contracts to the politicians's relatives/nominees is tremendous. That is what makes us rakyat so frigging mad.

I hope that people can see beyond the rhetoric served up by the local media and see them for what it is. We are not pro singapore or anti malaysian. It is just that when people try to demonise what is essentially meritocracy and link it with what is happening in our country. Even if they have done wrong, does it mean that we have to follow them?

08-12-2003, 12:01 AM
Did someone say Indira Ghandi was the Indian president? Incorrect. Mrs. Indira Ghandi was the longest serving Prime Minister of India who was gunned down by her own body guards during one her morning walk from her official resident to her office.

About LKY.. No one can deny that he did his country proud. The best law graduate from the top English Law School. Talking about meritocracy!