30 December 2005

May Day, May Day

"What, no parachute? Too bad."

Today the Straits Times has three separate articles about SIA and the airline industry. If you use your head and put two and two together, it's quite easy to predict what's coming soon for SIA staff.

The first article tells us that MM Lee thinks that SIA pilots are overpaid and we need some new clever ways to slash their pay without appearing to slash their pay:
Pilots 'must be flexible with pay'

PILOTS are a 'special' breed, but like the rest of Singapore Airlines (SIA) employees, they must also keep up with changing times and be flexible when it comes to deciding their pay package, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew advised the pilots' union yesterday.

This will ensure that the airline survives in the face of intense competition, he said at a dialogue yesterday with SIA management and representatives from five unions, including the Airline Pilots Association Singapore (Alpa-S).

In general, he said, SIA would pay competitive wages, but wages must be more flexible.

'Salary increments should not be locked into basic pay and make costs inflexible when in downturns. Instead, more payments should be in allowances varying with profits,' he said.
In the second article, MM Lee talks about "hiving off" some SIA units. Which basically means "restructuring". Which in turn basically means "downsizing" and "retrenching".
MM's verdict: Airline labour-management relations have improved
SIA urged to hive off some units

MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is persuaded that once-rocky relations between the five unions and management of Singapore Airlines (SIA) have improved, but he wants them to keep at it.

More adjustments will be needed to meet growing competition and one key step will be to hive off some parts of the business, he said.

He singled out SIA's catering and engineering subsidiaries as requiring hiving off 'sooner rather than later'.

Singapore Airport Terminal Services (Sats) and Singapore Airlines Engineering Company (Siaec) must become separate companies and compete with other players entering these two sectors, he said.
In the 3rd article, we learn that Mr Koh Boon Hwee, SIA Chairman, is stepping down and getting replaced by Mr Stephen Lee. MM Lee says some very nice things about Stephen Lee, which gives you an idea of why Stephen Lee has been chosen to be the new SIA Chairman. Basically Stephen has a proven track record (from his work at PSA International). He is very effective at managing unhappy, retrenched employees.

New chairman has special touch: MM Lee

MR STEPHEN Lee's journey from ports to planes received a vote of confidence yesterday from Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who praised the former PSA International chairman for having a 'special touch'.


Under Mr Stephen Lee, 58, PSA successfully restructured its labour-management relations despite having to retrench staff and restructure operations amid intense competition. It was an achievement MM Lee had noted in November last year.

Now, he wants SIA to take the PSA route. 'SIA is going to go through a similar process, like PSA,' he said. 'It was not painless. But morale must not go down. So we mustn't go back and say the case is lost, we're finished. We're not finished, just as PSA was not finished.'

The key is for the troops to rally around their new general, he said, as he urged SIA employees to support Mr Stephen Lee whom, he added, was chosen because of his 'touch' at PSA.

Draw your own conclusions. Mr Wang is glad that he is not working for SIA.


Biased Observer said...

I was thinking the same. It's going to be a jittery start to the new year for SIA staff, that's for sure. I suppose SIA management orchestrated this pre-emptive move to prevent the ugly mess that happened previously. That left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Anthony said...

I read an article in Today about pilots being poached. I don't think Singapore Inc. really realises what they are doing, given the level of labour mobility in pilots.

Biased Observer said...

Pilots are always being poached - both ways. As for your other point, consider this: Delta pilots have just agreed to a 15% pay cut, and another airline's pilot union is nearing an agreement for a cut as well. NW pilots already took a 15% pay cut last year.

That's what pilots are facing today - whether SQ or UA or EK or QF. I think the government is quite aware of the choices that pilots face.

kite said...

The message was rather outright, to say the least.


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Outright? Heh. Let me show you what would be outright and (straight) reporting.

"Salary cuts, restructuring and retrenchments are looming on the horizon for Singapore Airlines staff despite the likelihood of deep unhappiness from the SIA unions.

At a press conference held yesterday, MM Lee Kuan Yew spoke about the urgent need to revise SIA pilots' salary schemes and shut down parts of SIA's existing business operations "sooner rather than later".


Molly Meek said...

The message is clear; the style is clever.

PC said...


Actually, that's the way information is ALWAYS cuscaded to the ground.. ALWAYS.

Highly perceptive Bro Wang... :o)