Thursday, August 27, 2015

Employment Benefits

Speaking from bitter experience, Saffy says there are very few perks to working in a company’s HR department.
“No one likes you!” she once said. “The minute people see you walking towards them, they get all nervous because they’re scared you’re coming to fire them. Or tell them they’re getting a pay-cut! It’s so stressful!”
“For udder people more stressful than you, ok?” I remember Sharyn chiming in. “When I see that Mare-ly from HR, I walk the other way. Even if I have to go to toilet, I hide in my office and wait till she walk pass!”
“And if she walks into your office?” I asked.
Sharyn shrugged. “Then kena, lor! Your time is up!”
The flip side, of course, is that if you’re in HR, you’re also the first to hear all the bad news a long time before the rest of the staff do. This gives you time to prepare.
A few days ago, Saffy rang me in a state of panic. “Oh. My. God!” she said by way of greeting. “I just saw a memo on my boss’s desk.” She paused to suck in her breath. “They’re retrenching a whole bunch of people after Easter!”
On the other end of the line, I stopped typing. “Who’s on the list?”
“That’s just it! It was a two-page memo, so I only saw the intro page, which was upside down anyway so I couldn’t really read properly, before Jonathan walked back into the office! Oh my God, what if I’m on that list?”
Needless to say, productivity in Saffy’s office, never very high at the best of times, fell to a record low that afternoon. Like a hyena waiting for a wounded elephant to drop dead, Saffy watched Jonathan’s office. Her hands flew busily over her keyboard, looking for all the world like she was hammering out a very detailed breakdown of the year’s budget, but she was really just typing nonsense and waiting for Jonathan to step out. And when he did, he snatched the memo from the top of his in-tray and went up to the 35th floor.
“How do you know he went to the 35th floor?” I asked when she rang to give me an update.
“I called Rina who sits by the lift to tell me!” Saffy reported breathlessly. “And when he came back down to the 30th floor, his hands were empty.”
            “What’s on the 35th floor?”
“Legal counsel! You know what this means, don’t you? They’re working out the severance package!” For the first time, Saffy sounded hopeful.
“Or they’re just scared they might get sued for unlawful dismissal and want legal counsel’s opinion!” I offered brightly.
The silence from the other end of the phone was deafening.
Apparently, Saffy immediately called Amanda and demanded legal representation.
“But Saf, you don’t even know who’s on that list!” Amanda said.
“I need to be prepared. I can’t afford to lose this job! And anyway, why are they targeting us? They should get rid of all the ex-pats in the company! I was here first!”
It’s all Saffy’s been able to talk about since.
“I am not ready to be unemployed!” she sniffled into her bak kut teh the other night.
Amanda looked at me, her immaculate kohl-lined eyes swiveling back to Saffy. “Do you have a Plan B?” she asked solicitously.
Saffy looked up from her soup. “You are my Plan B! You’re going to have to support me if I lose my job!”
Amanda blinked. “What?”
“Hello, you earn, like, five times what Jason and I earn combined!”
“Yes, but…”
Saffy’s bosom inflated as she warmed to her theme. “Well, you’re not going to have to support me indefinitely! Just till I get another job!”
“Which in this market environment could be a while,” I murmured.
Saffy fixed me with a beady eye. “Listen, what is your problem?”
            “I'm just keeping it real,” I told her.
“Yeah well, if she doesn’t support me, I’m going to have to reduce my rent, sub-let my room, and share your room!”
            I blinked. Saffy looked triumphant. “How’s that for keeping it real?”
As it turned out, the retrenchment memo was directed at the Sydney subsidiary of Saffy’s company, not the Singapore HQ.
Saffy called me immediately after Jonathan had left her office. “Oh my God, I literally had an out of body experience when he told me! I swear I need learn to read upside-down properly!”

Amanda says she’s not taking any chances. She’s currently working on her own Plan B and it involves buying her own apartment. I said I was moving in with her. “You cannot leave me with Saffy,” I told her.

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