Being A Good Boss Man

I’ve been an employer for several years now, and when I first started, it was easy to look for advice from other “bosses”. Whether that advice was good or not is another matter.

What’s been evident is the difference in attitudes between the younger generation of employers and the older. Last year when one of my current employees reached his first anniversary of working at my company (and survived), I thanked him and apologized that things weren’t quite as rosy as I would have liked them to be, and that I read the National Wages Council’s recommendation for that year, but I could only afford to pay him an increment slightly higher than what the annual rate of inflation was.

Expecting him to be disappointed, I was a little shocked that he said I was the first employer he’d worked for to even consider things such as inflation, or even to have spoken about the National Wages Council.

Who are the shadowy people of the NWC, you may well ask? They’re from the trade unions, the Ministry of Manpower, and employers. And every year since 1972, they’ve been giving guidelines to whether and how to implement wage increases.

And there’s the rub – they’re just guidelines. And whether or not the workers of the nation get a pay increase or not is dependent on the paymaster – and a lot has also to do with whether the company’s employers are unionized, because just looking at last year’s NWC recommendations – 80% of of unionized companies followed the recommended increase, and only 30% of non-unionized companies did. What’s more, only 25% of Singapore workers are in the union.

Yet for some reason, people complain about how the NTUC isn’t doing anything to help increase the wages of workers. Hallo? How to help if you’re not in a union?

In any case, employers were surveyed last year, and some of those that didn’t implement the wage increases obviously had issues with company growth, cash flow or a giam ganna boss.

My fellow employers, there are ways to help your situation. Out of the minimum $60 wage increase recommendation for workers earning up to $1,000, the gahmen’s Wage Credit Scheme can subsidize $24. That’s 40% leh! 

I remember speaking with a man in his 60s a few years ago, who was doing ok with his business (not making a loss), and he was complaining about the NWC and how they keep recommending increases. I was struck by his summary: “Every year ask us to increase pay, where to find the money? My backside ah?” 

With a few years’ employer’s experience in my pocket, if I had spoken to him today, I’d have said, “Abu den? You have a responsibility to your staff as well as your profit margin, and the money would indeed have to come from your backside, not your staff’s”.

The way things stand at the moment, the challenge is in getting employers to shift their attitudes a little and come on board to actively promote their workers’ welfare. The Singapore National Employers’ Federation (SNEF) is a union of bosses that I think I might also sign up for – there are quite a few things they offer that I and my staff could use.

My current staff would be happy to know I’m joining a union to get help to improve their welfare (which they say is currently pretty darn good – cos we have this thing called “boss buy lunch day” once a month where we pick an expensive restaurant for a two hour lunch and eat and discuss work – I get the best insights into how my clients are handled, and my staff get a great lunch).

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