The following is a letter fromTan Liping

In a Today article, “When layoffs are rooted in opportunity” (Mar 18, 2009), it talks about companies taking the opportunity in this slowdown to restructure and consolidate their operations, even though some of these firms are still having healthy cash flows.

No doubt it is necessary for businesses to constantly improve on its efficiency. It is also understandable for those encountering difficulties in this economic slowdown to trim down and cut costs, though unfortunately, sometimes it involves laying off workers.

But what about those companies which are still doing fine? Is it ok for some of these opportunistic companies to ‘take advantage’ of this time to make redundant some staff? Yes, businesses are meant to be profit-driven, but does that mean businesses being heartless to people who have worked for and contributed to the company, using ‘Oh times are bad, your skills are not needed anymore” as an excuse? In other words, is it reasonable to treat human resources the same as other depreciable assets like a sofa or a computer?

I’m not saying that all retrenchments are totally wrong but they should be justified and should be the last resort. Problem employees aside, if an employee’s skill is obselete, is it possible to send them for training eg. through government’s PREP-UP or SPUR schemes? Isn’t training and cultivating staff part of an employer’s responsibility? If retrenchment is the only solution, is it possible to give employees advice and aid them in finding new jobs elsewhere? 

When times are bad, the impact of losing a job will be more magnified. Should the employer say bye bye and that’s it, or offer some kind of help?


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