Job cuts: rightsizing the oil and gas industry

THE slide in global crude oil prices has left a trail of casualties in its wake.

Oil companies and governments that rely on the price of crude oil for profit and revenue have been hurt by plunging receipts from lower crude oil prices.

For countries dependent on commodities such as crude oil, the effect cuts deeper. Their currencies have felt the brunt from the weaker crude oil prices and it is this group of countries that have a reliance on commodities that have seen the biggest depreciation against the US dollar compared with oil importing countries.

While the macro picture hogs the headlines and generates most of the chatter, the real micro cost of plunging crude oil prices has been felt by employment in the sector.

Many oil majors have announced job cuts to manage costs that had spiralled upwards during the boom days in the industry. Oil majors now have resorted to slashing their workforce amid the biggest downturn in the industry for decades.

For Malaysia, that impact is telling. Between January and July, the Malaysian labour market has laid off 6,547 people (not inclusive the voluntary separation schemes for Malaysia Airlines and banks). But 30% of that number, or nearly 2,000 people who lost their jobs, have come from the oil and gas industry alone.

“It is getting worse,” an oil industry executive says on the job cuts plaguing the industry. He says the oil major he works for is in the midst of a rightsizing exercise and that will mean many jobs will need to be slashed in the coming months.

“We have to reach a new equilibrium for the economies in the oil and gas sector.”

And it does not seem like the industry has hit a trough when it comes to retrenchment.

Part of that is down to the outlook for the price of crude oil. Although there is optimism that prices have hit a bottom, there is another school of thought that predicts more pain for the sector.

Supply from shale oil and future Iranian oil, once trade sanctions are lifted, are clouding the supply dynamics for crude oil and gas.

With expectation that oil prices will remain weak for the foreseeable future, oil majors continue to announce job layoffs. More jobs are expected to be cut next year.

In the US alone, oil companies are reported to have laid off more than 86,000 personnel from June last year up to September of this year. With many global giants having a presence in Malaysia, the workforce in the country will likely be included as part of a global cut in workforce.

Poor profit

The main culprit for job cuts among oil and gas has been the financial performance of those companies. As profits plunge, the knee-jerk reaction is to cut costs, and employment is in the crosshair of such cuts.

The hit on leaner employment prospects has already been told through not only the fall in crude oil prices but also cuts in capital expenditure and operating expenditure by Petronas Nasional Bhd. Companies that service the upstream segment of the industry have been the worst hit.

Downsizing: The main culprit for job cuts among oil and gas has been the financial performance of O&G companies. As profits plunge, the knee-jerk reaction is to cut costs, and employment is in the crosshair of such cuts. — EPA
Downsizing: The main culprit for job cuts among oil and gas has been the financial performance of O&G companies. As profits plunge, the knee-jerk reaction is to cut costs, and employment is in the crosshair of such cuts. — EPA

Petronas, the driver of the local oil and gas industry, has cut its operating costs and that has meant lesser demand for services provided by the oil and gas industry.

An industry official says Petronas, for its part, is not retrenching employees at the moment despite pressure to maintain profitability. It will cut bonuses in order to keep its permanent staff.

“There is no rightsizing of permanent staff at Petronas but whether it renews the contracts of high-paying employees is another thing,” he says.

The hardest hit segment on the industry’s value chain has been upstream activity. The cut in the number of exploration rigs and the associated services indicates the predicament the industry is going through.

The collapse in the price of crude oil has meant that companies are less inclined to spend on searching for new sources of crude oil. It makes matters worse when it is already costly to search for such oil in areas such as deepwater oil fields.

“As revenue comes down, staff are being redeployed from upstream to downstream. Staff will also be asked to multi-task but whether they can do that is another thing,” he says.

A pickup in hiring activity in the upstream segment is not expected as long as crude oil prices are anaemic.

Job cuts have taken place in that segment as a result of dimmed prospects in the industry.

With prices not expected to bounce up significantly, job prospects will remain dim. The general consensus is that crude oil prices are expected to remain sluggish for the short- to medium-term and that has necessitated the cut in expenditure and staff costs.

Trickle down effects

The oil and gas sector is not the only segment that has laid off workers as the pace of retrenchments seemed to have picked up pace.

Maybank Investment Bank says in a report that retrenchments rose sharply in the second quarter, up 56.7% year-on-year to 3,213 in the second quarter compared with a 14.4% increase to 2,789 in the first quarter of this year.

“Retrenchments in the construction sector went up as a number of major projects are nearing completion amid slow replenishment rate. The oil and gas sector’s retrenchment has been on the uptrend since the second half of 2014, coinciding with the plunge in crude oil price.

“At the same time, services industries like ‘finance, insurance, real & business services’ and ‘transport, storage & communications’ also showed uptrends,” it says.

Between January and July of this year, statistics indicate that 47% of retrenched workers are skilled, 40% semi-skilled and 13% unskilled.

It is the loss of skilled jobs, such as that by the oil and gas sector, that will have a big knock-on effect on the rest of the economy. The higher than average salaries that those workers once commanded will evaporate from the system and the absence of which will trickle down to the different sectors of the economy.

The slump in the industry has already been felt in the areas surrounding KL City Centre (KLCC), which is said to be the operational hub for oil and gas companies in Malaysia.

Hotel occupancy is down in Kuala Lumpur, especially those around KLCC. The Kuala Lumpur Shangri-la, which is the benchmark for hoteliers in the country, has announced a 10% drop in revenue in the second quarter of this year.

Apart from hotels, rental demand for houses surrounding the KLCC area has been acutely felt with the loss of jobs in the oil and gas industry.

“There has been a knee-jerk reaction especially around the KLCC area,” says a property consultant.

He says tenancies have been cancelled with oil and gas workers retrenched and for those who still have their jobs, their employers are housing them in different areas in the city.

“The numbers are down but it is not significant. There has, however, been a downgrade in the choice of accommodation,” he says.

The outlook though is not going to be rosy. With gross domestic product clocking a growth rate of 4.9% in the second quarter compared with growth of 5.6% in the first quarter, the slower growth rate will eventually bite into the prospects of employment.

“The labour market lags economic activity. There will be a lag of one or two quarters as companies won’t immediately lay off workers,” says an official.


Fewer job vacancies due to wait-and-see attitude.

INDUSTRY experts say the shrinking number of job vacancies in the country is due to companies adopting a “wait and see” approach, putting on hold any expansion plans because of economic uncertainty..

Other worse-affected businesses which cannot afford to wait, they said, are downsizing, contributing to the rising number of retrenchments that totalled 6,547 until July this year..

While retrenchments are pressured to rise, what is worrisome is that the number of job vacancies has been on a decline over the past few years. The new openings for jobs have fallen from 1.62 million jobs in 2012 and 1.4 million in 2013 to only 1.07 million last year..

The biggest drop in vacancies was seen in the manufacturing sector, followed by the services sector..

Vacancies in the manufacturing sector fell from 598,890 in 2012 to 352,784 positions last year, a massive 45% drop in just three years..

Retrenchments in the sector was also the highest last year with 5,716 job cuts..

In the services sector, job vacancies went down from 369,983 in 2012 to 275,199 available positions in 2014, while retrenchments were up by an additional 1,151..

The construction sector also saw fewer job vacancies last year, with only 202,878 positions compared to 310,954 two years earlier..

Vacancies in the mining and quarrying sectors saw a marginal increase, up 19% from 2,180 to 2,605 jobs. But conditions have soured in the mining industry led by the slump in global crude oil prices..

The sector saw retrenchments surge almost four-fold from only 81 in 2012 to 318 job cuts last year..

Economist Yeah Kim Leng says the authorities must scrutinise data very carefully to find out to what extent the drop in job opportunities are due to the slowdown in investments and business expansions..

“The Government needs to look at the factors affecting business confidence and the measures to alleviate these factors..

“Given that the investment pipeline seems healthy, the declining number of vacancies is very surprising,” he says..

Yeah expects the situation to improve in the second half of next year, once the Chinese economy stabilises and commodity prices recover..

The Government is currently mulling the possibility of setting up an Employment Insurance Scheme to help retrenched workers in the country..

Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Abd Muttalib said early this month that the scheme, aimed at helping retrenched workers through temporary financial aid, reskilling and upskilling, was announced in Budget 2015 last year..

“In Malaysia, during the economic crisis of 1997-1998 and 2008-2009, we had a steady increase of unfair dismissal cases filed at the Industrial Relations Department.

“After those periods, the cases returned to a normal pace. With an economic downturn possibly occurring in the near future, we are getting worried that dismissal and retrenchment cases would go up tremendously,” he said..

The total job loss in Malaysia as a result of the 2008/09 global economic crisis was around 40,000, out of which around 60% were in the manufacturing sector..

This was less severe compared with the estimated total job loss of 84,000 during the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis..

The unemployment problem in Malaysia during the global economic crisis was somewhat cushioned by the “more considerate” strategies taken by companies, which included cutting down their operating hours or days and reducing the salaries of their workers, so as to retain as many workers as they possibly could, instead of cutting headcount..

Weak business sentiment.

Although there has been an increase in investment approvals by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority, Yeah says, business sentiment needs to be monitored..

“We must monitor closely to see if they are going ahead with their investments or are pulling out,” he says..

Business conditions in Malaysia have deteriorated this year, with the Business Conditions Index by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research painting a grim outlook after the second quarter of the year..

The index fell to 95.4 points from 101 points in the previous quarter. A reading below 100 indicates pessimism..

It also found that the local and export sales outlook was bleak, and capacity utilisation rate had dipped further..

The survey, conducted each quarter to assist in assessing the short-term economic outlook, covers a sample of over 350 manufacturing businesses operating in 11 industries..

Areas explored include production level, new order bookings, sales performances, inventory build-up and new job openings..

In June, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar said although Malaysia had more than 400,000 people looking for jobs at any given time, the Government had set a target that 75% of graduates would find employment within six months of graduation..

According to the latest numbers from the Department of Statistics, in July this year, there were 459,900 Malaysians unemployed compared to 394,100 in July last year, a 16.7% increase..

The unemployment numbers have been on a rise every month since April this year, from 429,000 to 460,000 persons jobless in July..

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan says the situation is worrying as it means that many graduates would not be able to secure employment due to the shrinking number of vacancies..

“The ability to create middle-level management vacancies is a challenge now due to the economic condition..

“Nobody is sure what is going to happen, so companies have adopted a wait-and-see attitude..

“They are not making any new commitments. They are just maintaining what they have – if possible – or downsizing,” he says..

Shamsuddin says employers need the extra confidence from authorities in order to fix the situation..

“To stimulate employment, incentives have to be given directly to the sector. For example, there are incentives for companies that hire women who have been on a career break for over six months..

“The same can be done for companies that hire fresh graduates, for example, who have not secured jobs after a certain period,” he says..

This, he says, could be in the form of salary subsidies for the first few months..


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Malaysia’s jobless rate rising; Penang full employment, CM Christmas messages

Penang CM opening Solar coPenang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng looking at the artist impression of  The Top Komtar roof top project together with Only World Group chairman and group CEO Dato Richard Koh during the ground breaking ceremony, October 29, 2013. — Picture by K.E. Ooi

Prospective job hunters unable to score employment elsewhere in the country should try their luck north.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced today a booming market in the northern state, so much so that employers are hard put to find sufficient qualified manpower to fill 20,000 vacancies critical to keep their entrprises running.

“There is a growing [sic] at the increased in unemployment rate in the country which is at 3.3 per cent in October 2013, an increase of 0.2 per cent from the 3.1 per cent in September this year,” Lim said, citing figures released by the Department of Statistics.

Official date from the departmen showed the number of unemployed in the country to total 462,300 people, an increase of 19,100 people from September to October.

In contrast, the number of people with jobs was cut by 98,500, leaving 13.7 million people employed out of a total population of 28 million.

“Despite the rise in unemployment rate in Malaysia, Penang continues to see not just full employment but a shortage of at least 20,000 workers,” he added in his Christmas message statement.

Lim attributed Penang’s high employment rate to its recent successes in securing several critical foreign direct investments (FDI).

He said his state government will be making several important announcements on these FDIs next month, with a promise that the details will fulfil Penang’s pro-growth and pro-jobs objectives that he boasted had become its policy since he took control of the state in 2008.

“Penang has neither been distracted nor detracted from seeking sustainable growth that provides jobs for Malaysians,” he said.

He proudly pointed out Penang’s annual healthy budget surpluses recorded since PR took over the state administration five years ago.

“The budget-based administration we implemented since 2008 had led to an increase in state assets by 50 per cent to RM1.2 billion and a reduction in state debt by a record 95 per cent,” Lim said.

As for investments, he said the state had recorded RM36.1 billion in investments between the years 2008 and 2012, which is almost double of the RM18.7 billion in investments between 2003 and 2007.

“This was achieved through fighting corruption, establishing integrity in public service and open competitive tenders,” he said.

He said the state is moving towards an outcome-based administration that focuses on getting value-for-money for government expenditure to lower maintenance costs while ensuring better quality in the public delivery of services.

He reassured Penangites who fall into the poor and the less-fortunate categories that they will not be forgotten, saying the state will continue to disburse cash allowances through its various social welfare programmes funded from its savings of public projects.

“We have also adopted the unconditional cash transfer model of topping up all families whose monthly household incomes are below the poverty line of RM 790 per month to make Penang free from poverty,” he said.

As part of his message for the season, he reiterated his administration’s pledge to roll out by February next year, a three-pronged housing policy, which has been a major issue in the land-strapped state.

To help put housing prices within the bank accounts of more residents, Lim said the state will compel private developers to build a fixed percentage of affordable housing priced below RM250,000 on the mainland, and below RM400,000 on the island.

The Air Putih assemblyman said the state investment arm, Penang Development Corporation, will also undertake to construct 20,000 units of public housing, to be priced below RM72,500 per unit.

There would also be a 10-year limit on reselling government-built housing, a five-year cap on homes built under the affordable housing scheme to prevent speculation.

Lastly, he said his administration will start imposing a 3 per cent tax on foreign property transactions and a 2 per cent levy on all properties that are resold within a three-year period.

“Just as Christmas is celebrated to give life to all, Penang can only prosper if everyone regardless of race or religion can enjoy the fruits of success together,” Lim said.

– Contributed by Opalyn Kok

Guan Eng’s Christmas message gives a glimpse of new ‘OUTCOME-BASED’ policies 


The Penang state government reaffirms CAT governance of competency, accountability and transparency that upgrades budget-based to outcome-based administration that ensures economic growth(pro-growth), employment opportunities(pro-jobs) and equitable justice(pro-poor). Penang has neither been distracted nor detracted from seeking sustainable growth that provides jobs for Malaysians.

There is growing concern at the increased unemployment rate in Malaysia announced by the Department of Statistics at 3.3% in October 2013, up 0.2 percentage point from the 3.1% in September this year. October 2013 saw an increase of the unemployed by 19,100 persons to 462,300 persons, and there was a drop of employed persons by 98,500 to 13.70 million people.

Despite the rise in unemployment rate in Malaysia, Penang continues to see not just full employment but a shortage of at least 20,000 workers. Penang’s recent successes in securing several critical foreign direct investments, which will be followed by important announcements next month, will fulfil the pro-growth and pro-jobs objectives of the Penang PR state government.

The budget-based administration implemented by PR since 2008 has led to a healthy budget surplus every year, increase in state’s assets by 50% to RM 1.2 billion and a reduction in state debt by a record 95%. Again, investments was a record RM 36.1 billion for 5 years from 2008-2012, which is nearly double that compared to RM18.7 billion from 2003-7. This was achieved through fighting corruption, establishing integrity in public service and open competitive tenders.

Outcome-based administration

Moving towards outcome-based administration in the second term of government, focuses on getting value-for-money for government expenditure that will not only assist in reducing maintenance costs but also ensure better quality in the public delivery of services. This will go a long way towards achieving a cleaner, greener, safer and healthier Penang.

However the poor, the weak and those who need help are not forgotten. Penang is not only the first state to give cash contributions to ordinary citizens as part of the anti-corruption dividend but also the first state in Malaysian history to wipe out corruption. Adopting the unconditional cash transfer or UCT model of topping up all families whose monthly household incomes are below the poverty line of RM 790 per month, Penang is free from poverty.

First-time buyers and middle-income groups seeking to buy houses will benefit from the 3-prong housing democracy strategy of:-

  • Compelling private developers to build a fixed percentage of affordable housing(above RM72,500 but below RM250,000 on the mainland and below RM400,000 on the island) and public housing(below RM72,500);
  • Building 20,000 units of affordable housing through Penang Development Corporation(PDC); and
  • Implementing new housing rules after 1 February 2014 of a 10 year restrictions on resale on public housing and 5-year restriction on affordable housing, an approval fee of 3% on foreign transactions and a 2% approval fee of all sales made within 3 years from signing of the Sales & Purchase Agreement.

Just as Christmas is celebrated to give life to all, Penang can only prosper if everyone regardless of race or religion can enjoy the fruits of success together.

Penang is also proud to offer fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression. As the art and cultural capital of Malaysia, Penang celebrates the right to live with dignity in an inclusive society. As Nelson Mandela said, “.For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”


Related post:

Penang to unveil stricter housing rules


Singapore downplaying university degrees; bus death triggers riot

Downplaying varsity degrees

With thousands of unemployed graduates, the government plans to cap campus enrolment.

IT is clearer now why the government had been discouraging Singaporeans from depending too much on university degrees.

The reason is that the pool of unemployed graduates is expanding in this wealthy city, despite a general shortage of workers.

Almost by the week, new cases are being reported about well-educated professionals struggling to find jobs or being retrenched.

The latest example: A 29-year-old accountancy and finance graduate wrote of his failed job hunt for two years, saying: “I am deeply worried.”

Posted on a website,, which helps unemployed professionals, his is one of many such tales, including the following:

> A 51-year-old jobless graduate who earned S$4,000 (RM10,133) per month said he might have to become a security guard. “On some nights, I would wake up breaking out in cold sweat and worrying about my future.”

> A 28-year-old arts graduate has been jobless for one year, surviving on her savings.

> A 35-year-old Malay graduate ex-teacher and single mum is jobless and going homeless soon.

> A jobless 47-year-old graduate had only one offer in seven months – for a S$6 (RM15)-an-hour temp position.

> A 35-year-old jobless graduate and mum of two kids surviving on her security guard husband’s salary and with less than S$10 (RM25.30) in the bank.

There are others, all of which make sad reading, pointing to a deterioration of life quality for many middle-class Singaporeans as bosses prefer to hire “cheap” foreign workers.

The situation could worsen in the near future with nearly 10,000 graduates coming on-stream from seven local universities every year, seeking work.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) recently, a further 18,000 Singaporeans were studying in foreign universities – half of them in Australia.

Unemployment among the highly educated has risen from 3.3% to 3.6% in the first half of 2013, worse than the national average of 2.1%.

Actually, Singapore is not unique. Countries in the developed West, too, suffer from rising graduate unemployment – with one exception.

Unlike these countries, densely populated Singapore openly promotes immigration. Last year it admitted another 27,000 “foreign talents”.

Unable to create enough meaningful jobs, the government is doing the next best thing – downsizing the Singaporean ambition for higher education.

Several Cabinet ministers recently began to talk down the importance of a university degree.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said that paper qualification is not the only route to success.

And National Development Mi­­nister Khaw Boon Wan sparked controversy when he said: “You own a degree, but so what? You can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.”

Earlier, a Wikileaks document revealed a government decision to keep the local university population from increasing too much.

It quoted a senior Education Ministry official as saying that the government had no plan to encourage more students to go for university studies.

The campus enrolment rate would be capped at the current 20%-25% of total Singapore students. The labour market, she added, did not need more graduates.

That report came as a shock to Singaporeans who worship higher education as a god of success.

It led to speculation that the government is doing it to bring in foreign graduates en masse, since it is cheaper and faster than to produce them at home.

Given past records, this is unlikely to be the whole truth. The government has always given priority to developing Singaporeans to play an economic role.

To economists, however, there are wider fundamental reasons for it. The demise of the manufacturing era has significantly altered the job market.

Many of the newly created jobs today are in services that do not require formal four-year university training.

“A degree is nice to have, but we need something else,” is a regular employer comment.

For example, the opening of the two resorts required some graduates to be retrained as casino dealers and roulette operators.

Getting Singaporean parents to cut back on their children’s education is Mission Impossible. Many have suffered sacrifices to get them into a top university.

Social commentator Lucky Tan said any cutback would work against lower-income Singaporeans because the rich could easily send their kids abroad.

Not all are against the government being cautious.

“It is important to maintain a balanced, orderly labour market for the sake of social order,” said one writer.

Years ago former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew spoke of the dangers of educating hordes of graduates and being unable to provide them jobs.

He noticed that many tended to end up roaming the streets and making violent revolution.

And later Lee remarked that Singaporeans were not getting smarter, only better educated.

From many indications, the economy may intervene in the debate.

A research expert said: “I expect employment, including of graduates, to start to slow over the next few years.”

As quality jobs decline, it may further reduce the arrival of foreign professionals, even if the government were to do nothing.

Contributed by Seah Chiang Nee  Insight Down South

Seah Chiang Nee is an international journalist of 40 years, many of them reporting on Asia. The views expressed are entirely his own.


27 May 2013

Singapore tackles jobs controversy

BBC News – Singapore tackles jobs controversy

Earlier this year, Singapore’s government released a policy paper that predicted the population in the city-state would grow by 30% to 6.9 million by 2030, with immigrants making up nearly half that figure.

Thousands of Singaporeans have protested against government plans to offset the nation’s declining birth rate by bringing in foreign workers.

In response the government has stepped in to promote Singaporean workers over foreign ones.

BBC News – Singapore tackles jobs controversy

Singapore bus death triggers riot
The BBC’s Ashleigh Nghie

Police in Singapore have made 27 arrests after hundreds of people took part in a riot sparked by the death of an Indian national.

Trouble started after the 33-year-old man was knocked down by a private bus in a district known as Little India.

About 400 people took to the streets, hurling railings at police and torching police cars and an ambulance.

At least 16 people were hurt, most of them police officers, before the violence was brought under control.

Police commissioner Ng Joo Hee said it was the first rioting in Singapore in more than 30 years.

He condemned the rioting as “intolerable, wanton violence”. “It is not the Singapore way,” he added.

Rioting in Singapore is punishable by up to seven years in prison plus caning.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that “whatever events may have sparked the rioting, there is no excuse for such violent, destructive, and criminal behaviour”.

“We will spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law,” he said in a statement.

Correspondents say the outbreak of public disorder is rare in strictly governed Singapore.

The hi-tech, wealthy city-state depends heavily on guest workers, with labourers from South Asia dominating sectors like construction.

Many congregate in Little India on Sundays to shop, drink and socialise.

Pictures and videos posted in social media showed two police cars being overturned by the mob. Several private vehicles were also damaged.

Police cars overturned in Singapore. 8 Dec 2013  
Rioters overturned two police cars
Arrested men in Little India. 8 Dec 2013  
Little India is home to Singapore’s South Asian workforce

m: “The protesters were overcome with rage”

Malaysian business associations protest against minimum wage for foreigners

PUTRAJAYA: Some 100 people, claiming to represent business associations, held a brief protest against the implementation of minimum wage for foreign workers in front of the Human Resources Ministry.

Min Wage Protest

A member of the steering committee reads out the group’s demands to the protesting crowd. — Picture by Zurairi AR

The group, called the Minimum Wages Implementation Steering Committee, demanded that the Government stick to the current wage level set by the embassies of the various countries whose citizens work here, and not hike it up to RM900 as is being done for local workers.

Committee member Goh Chin Siew said they want the ministry to re-examine the minimum wage requirements so that they reflect the standard of living in different areas across the country, and for the Finance and International Trade and Industry ministries to weigh in on the impact of minimum wage on Malaysians.

“Malaysians will face hyperinflation due to minimum wage, and we will also see a lot of money flowing out of the country when foreign workers remit earnings home,” he said before the group handed a memorandum on the issue to the ministry.

The group said they were only against implementation of minimum wage for foreign workers and not against minimum wage for Malaysians.

During the protest, the group chanted various slogans outlining their support for minimum wage for locals but not foreign workers.

They also held up placards in English, Malay and Chinese, asking why the Government had not “listened to our voices” and demanding that Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam resign for allegedly failing to resolve the minimum wage issue.

Among the organisations that the group claimed to have secured as members are the Malacca Chinese Assembly Hall, Malay-sian Furniture Industry Council, KL-Kepong Business Recreation Club and Electrical Electronics Association Malaysia.

The Star: Recent Related Articles:

Jan 22 Effects of minimum wage to be addressed – Story | The Star Online
Jan 21 Employers complain of high levy and allowances, says Subra – Story | The Star Online

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Minimum wage saga continues..

WE refer to the letters written by Samsuddin Bardan of the Malaysian Employers Federation (The Star, Sept 30), the Secretariat, National Wages Consultative Council (The Star, Oct 2) and Peter Raiappan (The Star, Oct 27) on the issue of minimum wage.

Come January, most of us will be concerned as to whether the minimum wages as previously announced by the Government will be enforced on our service industry e.g. security guards, waiters in hotels and restaurants or other workers in similar industries that require them to work 24 hours, including Sundays and public holidays.

In the case of security guards, it must be noted that most of these guards work 30 days a month as opposed to most regular employees who work 26 days.

The guards in particular will have to work the extra four days to claim the four days overtime payment (in addition to the daily four-hour overtime) to obtain that extra cash for a take-home salary of more than RM1,000 a month.

The security service employers are indeed in a dilemma.

Besides the overtime payment, the security companies will have to fork out additional expenditure such as the “post allowance” to the guards particularly for those assignments which are located in isolated places, transport allowance to guards for the use of their own transport, and not to mention the “attendance allowance” as an incentive to compel the guards to avoid unnecessary absenteeism. There are also cases where a “laundry allowance” is given to ensure that the guards are in their most presentable uniforms while on duty.

All this amounts to additional unavoidable costs to the security companies.

We, the security operators, are most concerned about the take-home salary of the guards and not just the basic salary of RM900 a month (less EPF and Socso deductions).

This is precisely why we encourage the security guards to work 12 hours (with four hours overtime payment daily) for them to earn the extra cash. Even the Nepalese guards that we employ work the 12 hour shift for the same reason.

We believe that even if we compel the guards to work for only eight hours a day, I am sure they will find some other part-time job to earn the extra cash during their time off.

This may not be healthy as they will most likely be too tired to effectively perform their duties as security guards in their regular assignments.

This may even result in them skipping work, which is worse.

Security guards are posted everywhere in the country. They are not stationed in one place like the factory workers.

Some people may not be too concerned about security but the role of these guards should not be taken for granted.

They are important in our society to prevent crime amidst the worrying level of crime in the country lately.

We are indeed in a dilemma whether we can continue to sustain our security service industry in the face of the above-mentioned escalating operating costs if the Government insists on proceeding with the minimum wage of RM900 requirement.

We therefore, urge the Government to exclude the security service industry and other similar industries from the implementation of this RM900 minimum wages scheme due to the extra costs to be incurred from the additional four hours of daily overtime work.

They also work during public holidays and Sundays.

These will incur extra double overtime which in return their take home pay is more than RM900.

We hope the Government to consider our appeal seriously to postpone the implementation of the new salary scheme which is due on Jan 1.

It is for the good of the security service industry and for the economy in general.

By DATUK RAHMAT ISMAIL Hon Life President (International) Asian Professional Security Association – The Star Nov  28, 2012

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Malaysia’s minimum wage saga continues

AFTER all the debate between proponents and opposers and the accompanying fanfare which dragged on for years, the Human Resources Minister finally issued an order in July 2012, declaring that Minimum Wages need to be paid from January 2013.

While the intention was to ensure that all employees will be paid a certain minimum salary, RM900 in peninsular Malaysia, the way in which the order was worded has created problems and headaches for employers, not so much for those who are not paying the minimum wage of RM900 currently, but for employers whose current remuneration package for employees is far above that of RM900.

The blame for this rests squarely on the formulators of the law and the order.

This is further compounded by the recent issuance of so called “Guidelines – method of implementation of the Minimum Wages Order 2012”.

The National Wages Consultative Council Act, (the Act) under which the Minimum Wage Order has been promulgated, states that “wages” has the same meaning as that found in the Employment Act 1955.

“Wages” as defined in the Employment Act 1955 means basic wages and all other payments in cash payable to an employee for work done in respect of his contract of service but does not include the listed exclusions.

However, the Act has also provided a definition for “minimum wages”, to mean, the basic wages to be or as determined under the order made by the Minister under Section 23.

Section 24(2) of the Act goes further to state that where the basic wages in an employment contract is lower than the minimum wage rate as specified in the Minimum Wages Order the minimum wage rate (RM900) shall be substituted for the ‘basic wage’ in the employment contract.

There are many employers, who for a variety of reasons, provide a low basic wage but top up the remuneration package with a variety of other payments such as commissions, allowances, service charge, shift allowance and other payment in cash.

In many instances, the calculation of the additional payments are based on the current “basic wage”.

At the end of each month, these employees earn much more than the minimum RM900.

Often employers fix a low basic wage but pay high rates for other payments, the calculation of which, as mentioned earlier, is sometimes linked to the basic wage. They do so to encourage productivity.

They are not short paying their employees but that is how the wage payments are structured in the country with each industry having its own peculiar structure.

Many instances can be cited where employees paid as much as RM1,500 or even more per month.

The Minimum Wages Order requires that the “basic wage” be now moved up to RM900.

The introduction of minimum wages was never intended to affect these good employers but to compel the ones who pay below RM900 to raise the wages of their employees to a minimum level of RM900 per month.

The Minimum Wages Order in Para 6, however, goes on to suggest that employers and employees and where trade unions exist, could go about and re-negotiate a restructuring of wages before the coming into force of the order.

How on earth are employers, who do not have a union, going to go about this renegotiating with their employees? What if they disagree?

Would any employee or trade union in the right frame of mind agree to raise his current basic (which is lower than RM900) to the new figure of RM900 (thereby helping the employer to conform with the requirement of the Minimum Wages Order) and permit all the other benefits that he is receiving (which is related to the basic) to be lowered so that the end result is that he is placed at a position, (in terms of total remuneration received at the end of the month ) no different than the original amount that he is currently receiving?

The Minimum Wages Order has indeed created confusion in the labour market and that is putting it very mildly. Fortunately, the order comes into force only in January 2013, giving time for corrective measures.

In an attempt to provide some clarity and explanation to this confused state of affairs, the National Wages Consultative Council exercising the powers provided under Section 4(2) of the Act has decided that apart from the matters contained in the Minimum Wages Order 1212 it shall issue some guideline relating to the method of implementation of the order.

Nowhere in Section 4(1) (which refers to the functions of the council) are powers given to it to elaborate, explain, modify or issue guidelines relating to the method of implementing the Minimum Wages Order issued by the Minister under Section 23(1).

If at all the council wants to make any recommendations it could exercise the provision under Section 22(1)(e).

In such an instance it has to make its recommendations to the Government through the Minister.

The Minister, if he agrees with the recommendation, can then issue an order as provided for under Section 22(1). .

Clearly, the drafting of the Minimum Wages Order could have been done much more professionally bearing in mind the objective of the introduction of the minimum wage law.

It is still not too late to remedy the situation and help relieve the unnecessary turmoil the vast majority of employers are now facing.

Up till now so much management time has been lost trying to find answers to the hundreds of questions raised by law abiding employers in the different industries for which no one in the ministry has been able to provide clear-cut answers.

Needless to say, any law enacted must be simple, well drafted, easy to understand and achieve what it is set out to do.

If it creates problems, especially for those who ought not to be affected by it, then something is fundamentally wrong with it.


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Avoid these 6 ways to hurt your reputation in a new job

There are many ways you can inadvertently damage your reputation in a new job. As my former client found out, showing up late on your first day of work is one of those ways. Here are six ways you can sabotage your reputation that you should avoid at all costs:

#1 – Show up late on your first day of work: This is my number one “no-no” when it comes to starting a new job. Showing up late may damage your reputation because it can make you look unreliable and unable to plan for potential obstacles. If you can’t even make it to work on time, do you think your manager will trust you to finish a project on time? Always give yourself plenty of extra time to get to work for the first few weeks so you can get a feel for traffic patterns and how much time you’ll need. Bring a book or magazine to read in case you get there early.

#2 – Wear inappropriate attire, based on the company culture: Wearing a dark suit is not a good idea if you’ve been hired by a start-up company where everyone wears jeans and shorts to work. Similarly, wearing too casual attire to a company where most employees wear suits five days a week won’t work either. Take the time (before your first day on the job) to understand the company’s culture and find out from your new manager or HR representative as to what attire is appropriate. Never wear perfume or cologne to work – leave these for evenings and weekends. There’s almost nothing more annoying as a manager than having to hold a discussion with a new employee because their over-powering

#3 – Refer constantly to how your previous company did things: When you keep referring to things saying, “That’s not how we did it at ABC company,” or “Where I came from, this is how we did it and it worked much better,” you will severely damage your reputation. Why? Because nobody likes an arrogant know-it-all who thinks they are better than other employees or who believes their previous company did things better. I once led a department after the parent company had purchased and merged five companies into one. Ego-bragging about former companies was so prevalent I implemented a fun way of calling attention to this negative practice. Whenever anyone used the name of his or her former company and someone pointed this out, the person had to add $1 to an empty shoebox in my office. When the shoebox was filled with money I used it for a pizza lunch for the team and to talk about the ego-bragging and why it was so detrimental to our newly combined company. After that, the negative practice almost immediately ceased.

#4 – Question the way (and why) things are done: Like I mentioned in item #3, no one likes an arrogant know-it-all. Before espousing your opinions in your new job, take the time to identify all angles of a situation. This means understanding the stakeholders, inputs, resources, processes, and outcomes/results. Once you have this information, you can dig deeper into certain circumstances using terminology such as, “Help me understand how…” and “How does department ABC then use this information to…?” How you word things is just as important as the questions you ask, so think before you speak.

#5 – Ask for time off: You’d think this would be a no-brainer “no-no”, but you’d be surprised at how often hiring managers express their frustration to me about new employees blindsiding them with time off requests. If you receive a job offer in June and your family already has vacation plans scheduled for mid-July, let the hiring manager know immediately (before you begin your new job) and proactively work with them to ensure your vacation will not disrupt the productivity of the department. Surprising your new manager with a personal time off request can damage your reputation because it can make you seem like a deceitful and immature person.

#6 – Spend time “water cooler gossiping” to get the “dirt” on people in the department: Everyone wants to get to know the people in their new company as quickly as possible – but don’t spend time finding out through the gossip “grape vine” around the water cooler or break room. Take the time to get to know colleagues first hand and form your own opinions. Don’t let other’s nasty gossip cloud your thinking when it comes to co-workers.

As my former career-coaching client found out, it can be fairly easy to damage your reputation in a new job. Once damaged, it can take time and effort to repair your work reputation. To avoid having to go through this situation yourself, be aware of the six key ways you can harm your reputation when starting a new job – and wisely avoid them!

Lisa Quast

Lisa Quast, Contributor

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