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Ong Ye Kung: A study in failure

In Political governance on 17/01/2017 at 4:48 am

If his appointment as minister, and rise and rise since 2012,  is the PAP’s idea of meritocracy, give me nepotism any day (See last para of article in link).

He was Executive Secretary of NTWU (Nation Transport Workers’ Union) and a non-executive director of SMRT when SMRT’s S’porean and FT drivers had problems with salaries or working conditions. Even Zorro Lim (his ex boss) seemed to criticise him.

Here’s something I wrote after he resigned from NTUC in 2012. Slightly edited.

Meritocracy’s feet of clay: Ong Ye Kung

Our nation-building constructive media are ignoring the white elephant in the space where of the circles of TLCs/GLCs, PAP, NTUC and the civil service meet: sometimes also known as S’pore Inc.

Once upon a time, Ong Ye Kung, was S’pore Inc’s poster boy of meritocracy.

Just in April 2011, before the May GE, our nation-building constructive media praised him as an example of meritocracy at work. Son of a Barisan Socialist MP (and no friend of one LKY), he was a scholar* who rose to a senior civil service post**, then became a senior NTUC leader, and then a PAP MP candidate. It was whispered that he was Zorro Lim’s anointed successor as NTUC chief; and was tipped by ST as a future candidate for ministerial office. He did became the NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General in June 2011.

But by then his slave worker drawn chariot had gotten stuck in the mud . He was a member of George Yeo’s losing Aljunied GRC team. Worse was to follow in 2012: the wheels came off his chariot of gold and ivory and he was thrown-off, and cast into the darkness and mud and became a person that the constructive, nation-building media knew not.

Earlier this year, SMRT’s S’porean drivers made known publicly their unhappiness over pay proposals that had his endorsement as Executive Secretary of NTWU (Nation Transport Workers’ Union). As he was also a non-executive director of SMRT, if he were an investment banker, a US judge would have rebuked and censured him for his multiple, conflicting roles.

Then he resigned, effective last month, from NTUC to “join the private sector”.

In perhaps a farewell, good-riddance gesture, FT PRC workers went on strike (illegally) and we learnt:

— they lived in sub-standard accommodation (SMRT admitted this);

— unlike most SBS FT PRC drivers, most of SMRT’s PRC drivers were not union members; and

— Ministry of Manpower reprimanded SMRT for its HR practices.

All this reflects badly on Ong: NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General, Executive-Secretary of NTWU and SMRT non-executive director. And on the system that allowed him to rise to the top. After all his ex-boss said the following reported on Friday, which given Ong’s multiple roles in SMRT, can reasonably be interpreted as criticism of Ong:

In his first comments on the illegal strike, which saw 171 workers protesting over salary increases and living conditions, the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said the labour dispute “shouldn’t have happened” and “could have been avoided”. [So where was Ong: looking at his monthly CPF statements and being happy?]

NTUC is thus reaching out to SMRT’s management to persuade them “to adopt a more enlightened approach to embrace the union as a partner”, he added. [Hello, NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General was on SMRT’s board, so what waz he doing?]

Mr Lim, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Labour Movement Workplan Seminar, cited the example of SMRT’s rival SBS Transit where nine in 10 of its China bus drivers are union members. Only one in 10 of SMRT’s China bus drivers are union members, according to union sources. [So, why didn’t Ong advise SMRT to help unionise these FTs, and if he did, why didn’t NTUC push harder ehen SMRT refused?]

SBS Transit’s management “recognised the constructive role of the union”, while union leaders “played the role of looking after the interests of the drivers”, said Mr Lim.

“And as a result … they work very closely as one team, it’s a win-win outcome. In terms of how workers are being treated and respected, how management are responsive, how they work together, I think it’s a kind of model that we ought to see more and more in Singapore.” (Today)

Apparently, Ong is supposed to join his father-in-law’s property development business: but with this revelations, it should come as no surprise if his in-law’s family has reservations about him: he might mismanage and upset the workers. Property development companies are fragile because of their leverage: they can’t afford executives who can’t execute***.


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And here’s another post (Links to TRE outdated):

TRE says it all about Ong Ye Kung, NTUC & SMRT

In Humour on 10/04/2013 at 6:54 am

TRE posted these articles in the following order on its front page.
NTUC claims credit for unionising SMRT PRC bus drivers

NTUC claims credit for unionising SMRT PRC bus drivers

In a recent hour-long phone interview with 2 journalists from Yahoo! Singapore, former SMRT bus driver…
185 SMRT PRC bus drivers had petitioned MOM in 2010

185 SMRT PRC bus drivers had petitioned MOM in 2010

 

Ong Ye Kung as a director of SMRT should have known about the plight of the bus drivers. But as union leader of the bus driver, he did nothing. And NTUC is now claiming credit for unionisg PRC drivers? Why now only after a strike? But let’s be fair, maybe NTUC leaders are like the many readers of TRE who “hate” all things PRC. See all the negative stories TRE carries from the Western media about China which pander to these readers.


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And if anyone is wondering about the origins and meaning of the term “feet of clay”:

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.

This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. (Daniel 2:31-33)

And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.

And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. (Daniel 2:41-43)

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*From 1993 to 1999, he was in the then Ministry of Communications, where he helped develop the Land Transport White Paper and was part of the team which established Singapore’s Land Transport Authority. Taz right, he was there at the beginning of the great SMRT cock-up.

**He was the Principal Private Secretary to one Lee Hsien Loong, then became the CEO of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

***He joined Keppel. And as a shareholder, I’m very glad he took a big salary but did nothing. He’s the fourth kind of guy described below.

General Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, a chief of the German Army between the two world wars, is reoted to have said “I divide my officers into four classes as follows: The clever, the industrious, the lazy, and the stupid. Each officer always possesses two of these qualities.

Those who are clever and industrious I appoint to the General Staff. Use can under certain circumstances be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy qualifies for the highest leadership posts. He has the requisite nerves and the mental clarity for difficult decisions. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous.”

 

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  1. I fully agree with Gen von Hammerstein-Equord. As someone who used to work in S’pore’s public hospital scene, mgmt who are stupid & industrious often come up with impractical / stupid rules, regulations, SOPs, healthcare pathways/algorithms that result in demoralized staff & negative outcomes for patients (sometimes deaths). The stupid & industrious in S’pore’s govt service usually don’t rise to the top, but they languish at the mid-mgmt level where they can still do plenty of damage. Unfortunately S’pore’s govt service seldom fires these type of people.

  2. […] – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Ong Ye Kong: A study in failure […]

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