Photo of Mr Wong Heang Fine from Capitaland.

Surbana Jurong should not try to explain away disguised retrenchment

By Philip Ang

Surbana Jurong, a government-owned company, has drawn flak for terminating dozens of employees to avoid paying retrenchment benefits.

In what seems to be an attempt to rip off more than tens of thousands of dollars per terminated employee, CEO Wong Heang Fine has now resorted to explaining in an email the reasons for the disguised retrenchment.

Likening himself to a great leader, Wong said: “More importantly, for those of us who want to do great things, why should our rewards be affected by a small group of colleagues who don’t care …?”

Since beginning his career in Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), Wong has been parachuted into a number of Government Linked Companies (GLCs) before becoming Surbana’s CEO. Wong has been reliant on tax dollars since day one and would likely not have survived in the real private sector. He must be kidding to consider himself capable of doing great things. Can any person parachuted into taxpayer-funded organisations do ‘great things’?

Were great things done at Chartered Semiconductor, Tiger Airways, NOL, SMRT, etc ?

CEO Wong has also been throwing away billions in tax dollars to acquire overpriced foreign companies and probably considers this mode of expansion a great thing. Surbana is so silly because its expansion objective is not to increase bottom line but revenue.

Under public pressure, Surbana finally disclosed that it had terminated 54 employees locally or 0.79 per cent of its Singapore staff”. Perhaps there was a typo because 54 out of 3000 Singapore staff is not “0.79 per cent” but 1.8 per cent. Surbana should clarify.

Wong also disclosed that those terminated included senior executive architects, principal architects and principal engineers. By not paying out retrenchment benefits, Wong has increased millions in profit for Surbana. This must be considered another ‘great thing’ by his Temasek boss.

A CEO should be able to stand on his own two feet but joker Wong has to quote from his group chairman, Liew Mun Leong, to reassure himself that the mass termination – not retrenchment – was a right thing to do. Liew is a former civil servant who has been similarly parachuted into various GLCs and would also not have survived without the generosity of tax dollars.

In 2009, Liew was reported to have been awarded a $20 million bonus and was described as “a civil engineer who spent 22 years as a civil servant before taking the corporate world by storm”. The ST journalist must have received a bonus beyond his wildest imagination for his conviction in hogwash. PAP’s corporate ‘success’ stories have been written after wasting billions of tax dollars, no doubt.

If PAP-affiliated civil servants could, on their own merit, be successful in the corporate world, pigs could skydive.

Surbana lacks as much compassion as PAP as no company would terminate a huge number of employees with Chinese New Year around the corner. Why the urgency? Does this group of senior executives pose any threat to CEO Wong and his management?

Hmm… there is obviously more than meets the eye.

This article was first published on likedatosocanmeh.wordpress.com