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Old 30th June 2011, 02:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Fire us, tell us, then pay us

Fire us, tell us, then pay us

Unsure about who will get retrenchment letters soon, Amex staff anxious about not getting severance pay if they join rival bank.

Chai Hung Yin
Wed, Jun 29, 2011
The New Paper

THEY survived an ongoing retrenchment exercise. But some of the staff at American Express (Amex) are not heaving a sigh of relief.

Instead, they are bitter.

The reason: Being retained means they will have to forego a severance package should they choose to resign and accept an offer of a new job with a rival bank.

They feel their company is using the retainment exercise to avoid paying them what they were promised.

Amex, which operates foreign currency outlets at Changi Airport, had lost its airport tender to RHB Bank Berhad Singapore earlier this year.

The Amex counters at the airport will cease operations on July 25.

As a result, said Amex employees, the company retrenched more than 100 of its staff working at 15 money-changing counters at all three terminals.

The staff told The New Paper that they are upset by the retrenchment process.

First, they were told in February that they would be getting a severance package.

Those who have worked for at least a year with the company would get a lump sum equal to a month's pay for every year of service, plus two months' pay.

Said an employee who has worked for 12 years with Amex: "The boss from Australia came to Singapore to break the news that Amex had lost the tender and to address our concerns.

"At the same meeting," said the staff member, who would give her name only as Su, "the boss announced that Amex would pay us severance packages. We were so happy."

They were even happier when RHB Bank offered jobs to the affected Amex employees.

RHB Bank confirmed that they had begun interviews to select Amex staff in April.

But the Amex employees' joy was short-lived.

Before RHB Bank could shortlist successful staff, Amex came up with a plan to retain 32 of its best-performing staff, Su said.

The catch was that staff members who were retained would not get a severance package, which could range from $30,000 to $60,000 each, she added.

"When the news came out, all the staff were unhappy, not just the 32 affected staff. It is because no one knows who is on the list," she said.

Finding out names

She said that the employees have had to ask around themselves to establish the names of the 32 staff.

She claimed: "Until now, they have called us only through the phone. Until today, there is no black and white list of the affected staff, memos or files."

Her claims could not be verified.

She said: "They called us and said, 'You are part of the staff we want to retain. You have lost your severance package. Please come to the human resource office'."

Su, a top performer and one of the first among the 32 to receive the call, said she wasn't given an option to stay or to take the severance package.

She claimed that up to 70 per cent of those who were retained chose to resign.

Those who chose to resign did not get a severance package.

And last week, calls were made to the next batch, said another Amex employee, who wanted to be known only as Lily.

She said: "For every call they make, they save on the severance package."

Lily, who is in her late 20s, has been with the company for four years. She claimed: "As more people resigned, more people were called up to replace them."

Mary, a single parent who has worked with Amex for 12 years, said: "You hold on tight, hoping that they do not call you. But finally, they still call."

For Mary, it was a tough decision to make because of the RHB Bank offer. She signed the employment contract with RHB Bank.

She said: "I'm the sole breadwinner. I need a stable rice bowl. If I do not work, who will feed my kids?"

Meanwhile, those retained do not yet know where they will be deployed. There are only two confirmed outlets - Holland Village MRT and Citylink Mall - at the moment, Su said.

Amex declined to comment on all the claims, saying that the company wanted to minimise the impact on affected employees.

Amex redeploying about 30 employees

AMERICAN Express confirmed that its Global Foreign Exchange Services at Changi Airport will cease operations on July 25.

This follows an unsuccessful tender process. Its Singapore branch spokesman said about 100 positions operating 15 money-changing counters at all three terminals are affected.

In an e-mail reply to The New Paper, she said: "American Express' priority is to reduce the number of impacted employees and to redeploy as many positions as possible."

She declined to comment on its retrenchment policies or severance packages.

She said that about 30 of the affected staff members will be redeployed to new retail outlets in Singapore that are slated to open this year and will be in the CBD and key tourist destinations.

"Selection for such positions is based on performance and competencies," she said.

The company will now focus on its electronic international fund transfer services for businesses here. It also plans to operate airport kiosks, which will provide services to cardmembers.

RHB Bank confirmed that it has offered to re-employ the staff from the current American Express Bureau de Change counters.

It said that its "recruitment process has been very successful so far" and that new staff would be trained and deployed at Changi Airport.


"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth". - 1 John 3:18
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