I Just Got Retrenched… Again

Mr Life CEO - I Just Got Retrenched... Again

It has come to a full circle.

3 years ago, at around this same period in December, I got retrenched for the first time. It was stressful as hell. I had just came back to Singapore and had barely worked a full year in this tiny company. I swore never to work for some unknown company ever again… if I can help it. Mrs L.C. had just gotten her permanent residency and we were intending to bid for our own BTO1Build-To-Order – Part of the national housing program in Singapore, where we can use monies from our pension to purchase a flat. flat. Without a job and with barely $25k under my name, I made a decision to try for the smallest house available, to avoid having to fork out any cash for the initial down-payment. It was what I could afford. I had no mood for festivities, but luckily I secured a job barely 2 weeks after my last day — with another obscure company. Hey gotta handle the immediate needs right? I was clutching for the nearest straws within my reach.

3 years and $200k in net worth later, it feels much different… yet some things will remain the same. I will be getting the keys to my house next year and so starts my mortgage payments, renovation costs and other financial stresses. This time, I’m with a large multinational Australian mining company, that — as much as they would like to deny it — have lost their incentive to maintain a large base in Singapore. Having recently lost a fight with the Australian Tax Office, that mandated them starting next year, to have 100% of their Singapore operations taxable by the ATO. Previously, they were taxed even lesser by the Singapore government — in terms of percentage — when compared to the percentage of my income tax.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that, companies, whether big or small, will always put their own interest before ours. There is no such thing as a career, or a company that will look after you. There is only a job that generates income. How you set aside that income, determines whether you’ll be reduced to a grovelling mess when the company decides to chuck you aside, or allow you to walk away gracefully from a bad deal.

The company prepared a pretty decent redundancy package. Honestly, 3 months notice, with 4 months of redundancy pay. This would be more than sufficient for anyone to pick up an alternative employment in Singapore.

Something didn’t smell right with the terms of the package though.

You see, 9 of us were retrenched from our current positions, yet we were told that there were positions available for us to apply for within the organization. Upon looking at the job description, it was pretty much the same as what we were doing. However, there will be new terms of employment upon offer. Upon closer inspection of the redundancy package’s terms, it was phrased that in the event an offer has been made by the company, if declined, invalidates the terms of the redundancy.

Wait a minute! Shouldn’t it be such that if the offer was accepted, then there will be no redundancy payments? Surely, it must be some kind of mistake right?

Apparently not. Upon clarification with HR and a request to amend the terms. They had confirmed that my interpretation was correct and that the terms had been approved by legal and used by the Singapore office for many years. They then went on to highlight that they are offering better terms than what the ministry’s guidelines have recommended.

Whatever. They can offer me a million dollars and if they were to make an offer to me the next day, whether I applied for the position or not, with a salary of $1, and should I reject it, I will get nothing anyway. At least that’s how its stated in black and white. Of course, if that were the case, I’m sure a case can be brought up for contention. Regardless, I will just say F.U. and be done with such an organization that will put its employees involuntarily in such a vulnerable position — package or not.

By now, it should be obvious that the company is taking a gamble. The stake: The redundancy package. The prize: The potential to readjust the existing employees’ terms of employment to the company’s advantage. You would think that the logical choice would be to tip the odds to your favor, take the package and look for alternative outside employment.

Apparently, this didn’t turn out to be the case. As of today, 3 weeks after the announcement, it has come to my attention that there are already 2, who have applied for the available positions. Turns out that they will have to relocate to Melbourne, Australia, and accept lesser pay. Not to mention paying for their own accommodation as well as higher taxes. If these people took some effort to educate themselves, they would probably also find out that Australia is currently undergoing a very serious domestic housing debt collapse that will probably play out in the next couple of years — bad time to be involved in housing… rent or buy. Talk about being handed the short end of a burning stick.

When one of them was asked why he would subject himself to such a bad deal, his response? “What to do? No choice!”

I have no idea what sort of commitment he has, but I’m glad to have none of it. The last time I had “no choice”, I had less than $25k under my name after working for less than 12 months… and was about to make a bid for a house! These people joined around the same time as me with similar positions, so we had been around for about 20 months. I guess it could be that carhe owns that seldom uses and a cupboard full of LV “tudongs” for the other, that drove them up the wall.

Well, I’m just glad that my F.U.$ has given me an edge to tip the odds towards my favor, even though this was an involuntary trigger, it still managed to put me in a position of power. Although this could potentially disrupt my 10-year plan, but think about it: Any job that I can secure before July 2019, effectively gives me months of bonus income that is not subjected to taxes or CPF.

Heck, I may even consider taking these few months as paid sabbatical to explore other self-employment options!

Who says we have no choice? We have the power to shape our own future. It’s a matter of leaving our fates in our own hands, or to someone else with their own agendas.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Build-To-Order – Part of the national housing program in Singapore, where we can use monies from our pension to purchase a flat.

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