Monday, December 10, 2012

Pay increment, bonus for 2013 expected to dip: report

SINGAPORE: Global consulting firm Hay Group has predicted cautious pay rises for Singaporean workers as 2012 comes to a close.

In its latest report, the group said pay increases and bonuses for next year are expected to slide.

Hay Group said salary increases averaged 4.6 per cent this year - slightly higher than the 4.4 per cent in 2011. But pay increases for next year are expected to dip 0.2 percentage points back to 4.4 per cent.

The Singapore Human Resources Institute agreed, saying increments will hover around 4 per cent.

The Institute expects the manufacturing, construction and logistics sectors to face a tighter squeeze.

The Institute's executive director, David Ang, said: "For those company who are not doing well, and it's sort of breaking even.

"I think the important thing is to inform the workers on the prospect of their business and at the same time collectively bite the bullets to hope for better times to come."

As for bonuses, the actual average variable bonus this year is said to be 2.6 months. For next year, it is expected to dip slightly to 2.5 months.

The Hay Group said hiring seems to have picked up in Singapore, despite the continuing uncertainty in the global economy.

Fifty-eight per cent of those surveyed said they are planning to increase staffing levels, compared to 50 per cent this time, last year.

But economist Dr Tan Khay Boon from SIM Global Education said this does not mean firms will splurge on hiring.

Dr Tan said: "The company want to meet the demand for the customers and therefore they need more workers to help them out in the operations. But, they are also very careful about the bottom-line.

"That's why they prefer to hire the worker at the same cost or better still, at the lower cost instead of expanding the cost to get the workers."

Leading the hiring outlook in the survey are the engineering (33 per cent), sales (29 per cent) and financial (21 per cent) sectors.

Turning to the region, the Hay group said high-growth Asian economies like China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines can expect significant pay rises in 2013.

The survey, conducted in September, covered over 500 Singapore-based companies from both the private and public sectors.

They were polled on their business sentiments and salary and bonus projections for the next 12 months.

US stocks edge up amid hopes for 'cliff' deal

NEW YORK: US stocks ended slightly higher Monday amid hopes that a political deal over the looming fiscal cliff was in the works.

Markets showed little effect from the fresh turmoil in the eurozone, after Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he would resign in the coming days and Silvio Berlusconi threatened a comeback on an anti-austerity platform.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 14.75 points (0.11 percent) to 13,169.88.

The broad-market S&P 500 added 0.48 (0.03 percent) to 1,418.55, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite rose 8.92 points (0.30 percent) to 2,986.96.

Trade was light and in a narrow range, with transportation, technology and basic materials shares strongest, while consumer goods slipped.

Troubled Hewlett-Packard surged 2.6 percent on rumors that raider Carl Icahn was moving on the company.

Canadian energy firm Nexen added 13.8 percent after Canadian regulators approved its takeover by Chinese state oil giant CNOOC late Friday.

Excepting Apple (-0.6 percent), big tech stocks were higher: Facebook 1.3 percent, Google 0.2 percent, Cisco 2.4 percent and STMicroelectronics, which said it was leaving a joint venture with Ericsson, added 3.4 percent.

Bond prices edged higher. The 10-year US Treasury yield slipped to 1.62 percent from 1.63 percent late Friday, while the 30-year fell to 2.80 percent from 2.81 percent.

Bond prices and yields move inversely.

Dollar dips as investors expect new Fed stimulus

NEW YORK: The dollar dipped against other major currencies Monday as investors bet the Federal Reserve would provide more stimulus to the lackluster US economy at its rate-setting meeting this week.

The euro was buying $1.2939 at 2200 GMT, up from $1.2928 at the same time Friday.

Against the Japanese currency, the European currency weakened to 106.53 yen from 106.64 yen late Friday, while the dollar edged down to 82.33 yen from 82.46 yen.

"We believe the weakness in the greenback reflects the market's expectations for easier monetary policy from the Fed," said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.

The US central bank's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee opens a two-day meeting Tuesday. Stubborn high unemployment and the looming fiscal cliff challenge give the Fed every reason to expand its stimulus efforts, analysts said.

Gathering just before its "Twist" asset-swap operation expires at year-end, there are signs the FOMC will replace it with more outright bond purchases, or "quantitative easing," aimed at lowering interest rates to encourage businesses to invest and hire.

"Given the increasing uncertainty about America's looming fiscal crisis, the Fed is likely to signal that it will continue its outright purchases of mortgage and agency bonds worth $85 billion and maintain lending rates near zero until mid-2015," said Omer Esiner of Commonwealth Foreign Exchange.

"If the Fed signals that further easing next year is likely, the dollar could suffer."

Against the Swiss currency, the dollar fell to 0.9335 francs from 0.9343 francs late Friday.

The British pound fetched $1.6075, up from $1.6039.

US to press on trade in China talks

WASHINGTON: The United States said Monday it would press China on intellectual property rights and other key concerns as the world's two largest economies hold top-level trade talks next week.

The Commerce Department said that Vice Premier Wang Qishan would visit Washington on December 18-19 for the annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, the main US-China forum to discuss trade policies.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk called the forum "critical" for the future of the often fractious commercial relationship between the United States and China.

"This year, we're focused on delivering meaningful results on issues including enforcement of intellectual property rights, combating pressures to transfer technology, eliminating trade-distortive industrial policies and removing key obstacles to our exports," he said in a statement.

Trade has been a frequent irritant in relations, with the United States accusing China of hurting US companies by not cracking down on widespread counterfeiting and favoring domestic competitors.

China, in turn, has warned the United States against protectionism and called for the removal of restrictions on the sale of sensitive technologies.

The talks come in the wake of the US election, in which defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney vowed to take a tougher stance on China over trade and other issues if he defeated President Barack Obama.

This year's talks will likely be the last involving longstanding players in trade negotiations, adding a level of uncertainty into future rounds.

Wang, an economic expert who is widely known and largely respected in Washington, was named last month as China's top official tasked with fighting corruption -- seen by the Communist Party as a major threat to its rule.

Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas, is widely expected to leave his position as the top US trade negotiator when Obama names his new cabinet.

Navy regular critically injured after incident onboard ship

SINGAPORE - A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regular serviceman, Military Expert (ME) 2 Chee Weng Fai Jason, was critically injured onboard the Landing Ships Tank RSS Endeavour while it was berthed at Changi Naval Base.

He was caught between the motorised winch and the rope while checking on one of the berthing ropes that was being tightened.

Below is the full press statement from the SAF:

A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regular serviceman, Military Expert (ME) 2 Chee Weng Fai Jason, 29, a Weapon Systems Supervisor was critically injured onboard the Landing Ships Tank RSS Endeavour.

At 2.22pm, ME2 Chee was checking on one of the berthing ropes that was being tightened and in the process was caught between the motorised winch and the rope. At the time of the incident, RSS Endeavour was berthed at Changi Naval Base.

The medical centre was alerted to the incident at 2.25pm. From 2.30pm, ME2 Chee was attended to by a medical team led by four medical officers from the Changi Naval Medical Centre.

The medical team stabilised his condition before careful extrication was carried out to prevent further aggravation to his injuries.

Following extrication, ME2 Chee was sent via an SAF ambulance from RSS Endeavour to Changi General Hospital (CGH) at 3.26pm and was admitted to CGH at 3.52pm. The medical officers continued to stabilise him in the ambulance en route to the hospital.

ME2 Chee has undergone emergency surgery and remains in critical condition.

The SAF is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.

Hiring to pick up despite uncertainty

SINGAPORE - Mr Robert Tan found the right fit when he took on a job as a financial adviser late last year.

It suited his personality as he spends long hours each day meeting and chatting with clients.

"It appeals to me because it is who I am. I am very comfortable when I speak with people and it doesn't really count as work," the 25-year-old told My Paper.

And, as long as he meets his sales targets - he makes about $2,500 a month selling unit trusts and insurance - he feels secure in his role.

Employees in the sector of finance, insurance and real estate can look forward to brighter times.

The sector is the most optimistic when it comes to employment prospects in the first three months of next year, according to results of a survey conducted by workforce-solutions firm Manpower Singapore.

Results of the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released yesterday show that while employers may be cautious in their expansion plans, there are signs of stability in the labour market.

A sample of 654 employers here was interviewed for the survey.

The country's overall employment outlook for the first three months of next year is good, with a "respectable" increase of 11 per cent and employers in all seven industry sectors expected to raise staffing levels.

Even the services sector, the weakest, is expected to increase staffing by 3 per cent.

A separate report released yesterday by global management consultancy Hay Group said that, despite the continuing uncertainty in the global economy, "hiring seems to have picked up in Singapore".

According to the report, 58 per cent of more than 505 Singapore-based companies from both the private and public sectors are planning to increase staffing levels. This is compared to 50 per cent this time last year.

The companies were polled on their business sentiments, and salary and bonus projections for the next 12 months.

The report showed that the top five areas of recruitment are in engineering, sales, finance and accounting, IT and telecommunications, and marketing.

It also said that Generation Y talent, typically those born between 1981 and 2000, are most attracted and motivated by measures such as financial assistance in education and training, job rotations and overseas-attachment opportunities.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Singapore to deport Chinese bus drivers in strike

SINGAPORE - Singapore will deport 29 mainland Chinese bus drivers and prosecute five others for taking part in the city-state's first strike since the 1980s, the government said Saturday.

The Ministry of Manpower said in a statement that 29 drivers' work permits had been revoked and immigration officials "will be repatriating them" for involvement in a two-day stoppage to demand better pay and working conditions.

"The strike was planned and premeditated. It disrupted our public transport which is an essential service, and posed a threat to public order," the statement said.

A fifth driver has been arrested and will be charged in addition to four others who have been brought to court for allegedly instigating the November 26-27 work stoppage at state-linked transport firm SMRT.

If found guilty of involvement in an illegal strike, they could be jailed for up to a year or fined a maximum of S$2,000 - the equivalent of two months' wages for a driver.

Strikes are illegal in Singapore for workers in "essential services" such as transport unless they give 14 days' prior notice and comply with other requirements.

Full statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Manpower

December 1 - The Government acts against instigators and key participants involved in illegal strike.

The Police have substantially completed their investigations into the illegal strike on 26 and 27 November 2012 involving SMRT bus drivers who deliberately failed to turn up for work as required.

The strike was planned and premeditated. It disrupted our public transport which is an essential service, and posed a threat to public order.

The Public Prosecutor has decided to charge a total of 5 bus drivers who instigated or participated in the illegal strike. Between 28 and 29 November 2012, the Police arrested 4 bus drivers who were subsequently charged in Court for engaging in a conspiracy to instigate others to participate in the strike.

On 1 December 2012, the Public Prosecutor obtained a summons for one more person involved in the strike to be charged in Court on Monday, 3 December, under section 9(1) of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (Chapter 67). If convicted, the drivers will face a fine not exceeding $2,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both on each charge.

In addition, 29 SMRT bus drivers have been sternly warned by the Police for participating in the strike. The Controller of Work Passes has revoked their work permits, and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority will be repatriating them. These bus drivers who persisted in the strike were absent on either or both days of the illegal strike without reason. Some had medical certificates, but notwithstanding this, there is evidence of their involvement in the strike. Barring any new developments, we do not expect further arrests or repatriations related to this illegal strike. The Police will be issuing warnings to the others who were involved, but no further action will be taken against them and they will be allowed to remain and work in Singapore, so long as they continue to abide by our laws.

The actions of these SMRT bus drivers disrupted an essential service and Singapore's industrial harmony. While the SMRT bus drivers may have had grievances, these should have been raised through the legal and proper means available. 5 persons will face charges in court for the offences committed, and will be dealt with in accordance with the law. 29 persons who were blatant and persistent in their unlawful acts have had their Work Permits revoked and will be repatriated. Those who returned to work upon realising that this action was illegal will be issued warnings by the Police.

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