Sunday, 23 October 2016

Hello, have you been retrenched by SPH?

Time to address to the elephant in the room. Or rather, on the phone. Though it’s not very nice to refer to my mother as an elephant, as heavy as she is.

She called me yesterday afternoon.

Actually, it was two minutes after noon, to be exact. The first thing she asked me was whether I was awake. Since it was only two minutes after noon, the answer was barely.

She then asked me if I had been laid off.

Where did this come from?

Was it because she had read that the number of workers retrenched in the first half of this year has hit a six-year high, according to Ministry of Manpower figures?



No, it’s actually because she had heard from my aunt who had heard from my cousin that my company was retrenching people.

My mother also said that my cousin has moved in with my aunt because he used to live in his ex-wife’s home but was kicked out because his ex-wife wants to sell the home because she’s living in the US now.

Yeah, it’s complicated. But I digress.

My cousin had probably read last week that Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is cutting up to 10 per cent of its 4,182-strong workforce over the next two years through “attrition, retirement, non-renewal of contracts, outplacement and retrenchment”.

SPH also announced that it is merging free sheet My Paper and paid daily The New Paper to form a revamped TNP, which will be launched on Dec 1 and distributed free at the same places you get My Paper now.



The new New Paper will be published from Monday to Saturday.

Which means that The New Paper on Sunday, where you’re reading my sad words at this moment, will be headed for the great recycling bin in the sky.

So if I were me, I would be worried about losing my job.

Hey, wait a minute, I am me!

My wife said it would be funny if I were retrenched by SPH again because it would be the second time. Like the way many readers feel about this column, I fail to see the humour in it.

In 2001, two months after 9/11, the now-forgotten SPH MediaWorks laid off 73 workers — and I was one of them.

Let’s have a moment of silence, please, in memory of Channel i, which was formerly TVWorks, where I formerly worked.



Unlike 15 years ago, the Government seems to be making a better effort in helping job seekers now.

Back then, there was no Singapore Workforce Development Agency, which was created in 2003. There was no National Jobs Bank, which was launched in 2014.

Even though I was unemployed, I still looked forward to the weekend because Saturday was (and still is) the day The Straits Times has the most job ads.

At 35 when I was laid off, I already felt I was too old for many of the positions I was applying for.

Now that I’m half a century old, I’m more likely to get colorectal cancer than another job if I’m retrenched again.

At least that’s the impression I got from the letter the Singapore Cancer Society sent me after my 50th birthday asking for my stool samples.

A photo posted by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on


They’re on their way.

Incidentally, Singapore postal workers are heroes for the literal crap they have to handle in the mail.

Hmmm, I wonder if there are any job openings at Singapore Post.

After all, I can’t be too picky since there just isn’t much demand for unfunny “humour” columnists five years away from being eligible to withdraw from their CPF.

Maybe I can get a job running the Singapore national men’s football team.

Last week, the Lions fell to an all-time lowest world ranking of 171 out of 205 in the latest table published by Fifa on Thursday.



I believe that I’m qualified for the job because like whoever is in charge now, I too have absolutely no experience in running a successful national football team.

But fortunately (or unfortunately) for Singapore football, I have not been retrenched by SPH (yet).

And that was what I told my mother on the phone.

She was relieved.

I wanted to ask her about my cousin, but I wanted to go back to sleep even more. After all, it was only a few minutes after noon.

I said goodbye to my mum and hung up.

A few minutes later, I received a WhatsApp message from my sister: “I heard about SPH cutting people from someone working at News Centre...”

Aiyah, here we go again.

She had better have some great gossip for me about my cousin.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 October 2016

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