Dozens of Surbana staff lose their jobs
The Straits Times article on 14 January, “Dozens Surbana staff lose their jobs” states that “Temasek Holdings-owned infrastructure consultant Surbana Jurong has terminated the employment of a number of employees as part of a performance management review.”
All the affected workers in Singapore?
According to the article, all of the affected workers are based in Singapore, where the firm employs about 3,000 workers.
As many as 65 workers?
While the company did not say how many workers have been laid off, but a spokesman said that less than 0.5 per cent of its global 13,000-strong workforce had been affected.
As all the terminated staff are in Singapore, the number is in the “dozens” up to as many as 65 workers.
Up to 2.2% or 0.5% of the workforce?
Also, up to 65 of the 3,000 workers in Singapore is about 2.2 per cent (65 divided by 3,000) of the workers in Singapore, which arguably does not sound as good as “less than 0.5 per cent of its global 13,000-strong workforce”.
Terminations not a retrenchment exercise, but rather, a small number of poor performers?
As to “The spokesman said the terminations were not a retrenchment exercise, but “rather, a small number of poor performers were communicated with and released” – if a company can terminate so many workers (dozens up to 65) and simply say that it is “not a retrenchment exercise” and call it “a small number” to boot – does it mean that it does not have to pay retrenchment benefits, terms and conditions?
If a company can terminate in one go – as many as 2.2 per cent of the workers or up to 65 workers – and call it “not a retrenchment exercise” – something doesn’t seem right – right?
In October last year, NTUC expressed concerns that employers were disguising retrenchments to circumventure labour laws. One such modus of operation listed by NTUC is terminating with poor performance cited as a reason, a curious sign of a disguised retrenchment is when the poor performance rating comes abruptly following a consistently good ratings.
ST noted that the affected staff were handed letters last week and took the issue to union officials and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) this week.
The workers are represented by the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union and the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (Batu), both affiliated to NTUC.
The two unions said 18 union members were affected, most of whom are over the age of 62. Their re- employment contracts were prematurely terminated.
Why nobody mention “not a retrenchment exercise” issue?
Batu was quoted to have said that the unions are working with Surbana on how to help the affected union members – arguably, shouldn’t the unions be telling the media (they are quoted in the subject Straits Times article) – that perhaps arguably, obviously the key issue may be that the company is saying that it was not a retrenchment exercise, instead of “the unions are working with Surbana on how to help the affected union members and “We are still talking to the company”?
Doing the job that unions are supposed to do?
Since dozens (up to 65) of Singaporeans may have lost their jobs in today’s economic downturn and poor job market – shouldn’t the unions be doing the job that unions are supposed to do in the first place – protecting workers?
MOM looking into 17 staff, but Straits Times said dozens up to 65?
In respect of “An MOM spokesman said it is looking into terminations involving 17 staff under the Surbana group of companies, and that it is providing assistance to those involved” – if there were dozens up to 65 workers – why is it that “it is looking into terminations involving 17 staff (only) … providing assistance” ?
The numbers implied in the subject Straits Times article do not seem to tally with the MOM numbers?
Spun off from 2 statutory boards?
Surbana Jurong was formed in June 2015 through the merger of urban planning consultancy Surbana International Consultants and industrial and infrastructure engineering group Jurong International. It means that Surbana is in essence the ultimate outcome of spun offs from two statutory boards – HDB and Jurong Town Corporation (JTC)? (Source: Surbana Jurong’s website – “SJ traces its roots to the Housing Development Board (HDB) and the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC))”.
Setting a bad example?
So, what kind of example is a former “(two statutory boards)” company setting to other employers? What sort of message is it sending to other employers as to how to treat Singaporean workers in a layoff (so called “not a retrenchment exercise)?
Indirectly government-linked and government-owned?
Perhaps to compound the shame and gravity of it all – the subject Straits Times article said “Temasek Holdings-owned infrastructure consultant Surbana Jurong”.
Treating S’poreans fairly?
So, Temasek derives its funds to invest from Singaporeans and this is how a company that it owns treats Singaporean workers.
If something like this happens in a global MNC – there may be worldwide displays of displeasure or condemnation by the staff, shareholders or customers who buy its products or services.
I hate to and don’t normally say this, but shame on whoever made this sort of decisions in such a way – if the Straits Times reporting is “correct”.
By the way, how many employers have done such similar “not a retrenchment exercise” in the past?
No evidence to indicate rise in retrenchments in Singapore?
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say has said in Parliament last November that there is no clear evidence of rising cases of irresponsible retrenchment in Singapore, in response to questions from Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Tan Wu Meng, who had asked how the ministry is planning to address rising cases of ‘disguised retrenchments’, a trend to disguise the intent of job termination by companies to circumvent paying fair benefits.
Minister Lim said, MOM had received 94 cases from employees with retrenchment-related issues last year.
Of these, 15 appeals came from employees who have been dismissed but felt that they were retrenched and denied of their retrenchment benefits.
For the first nine months of 2016, the MOM saw 14 appeals out of 63 retrenchment-related cases.
“Overall, these cases make up a small proportion of the total number of layoffs in 2015 and 2016 so far,” Mr Lim said.
He explained that in all but one appeal, the workers were either not entitled to retrenchment benefits as they have worked less than 2 years, or there were no retrenchment benefits specified in their contracts or collective agreements.
However, with just this case alone, the number of appeals have exceeded the total number received in 2016. Mr Lim will have to change his stance on the matter the next time he answers in Parliament.
S’poreans less proud of our world-class companies?
With regard to “The firm has no lack of project supply. Its international operations chief executive … told a roundtable last October that the company has “over 1,000 projects in the pipeline” – when a company that boasts of “The firm has no lack of project supply … the company has “over 1,000 projects in the pipeline” and then does this sort of “not a retrenchment exercise” just three months later – it may arguably be “adding insult to injury” to the grief and predicament of the affected workers and make Singaporeans much less proud of out world class government-linked and indirectly government-owned companies.