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Source: Street Directory

IBM to shut down Tampines manufacturing plant, retrench remaining staff members

The remaining staff members at IBM’s manufacturing plant in Tampines will soon be facing its final retrenchment exercise as the company seeks to move its manufacturing processes to the United States, where IBM was first established.

Responding to TODAY‘s queries, the US global technology firm said that the impending move to Poughkeepsie in New York is based on “IBM’s continual review of the most efficient way to source (its) products”.

IBM added in its email to TODAY that “Poughkeepsie already manufactures IBM Z, thus it already has the required skills, procedures, tools and manufacturing expertise”.

While the company did not disclose the number of workers that are being retrenched, it said that “all affected employees will leave by the end of July (2019)”.

IBM’s other business units, however, will not be affected by the closure of the Tampines plant. This include the IBM Watson Centre at the Marina Bay area, its management, software, blockchain and other services organisations, as noted by TODAY.

One IBM staff member at the plant told TODAY: “When the last batch was retrenched (last July), we knew those of us left behind won’t stay for too long… There were rumours that the plant will close in another six months to a year”.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Manpower’s Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation told TODAY that IBM had notified the ministry of its retrenchment exercise.

Consequently, the workers will be able to seek employment services and support from Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) via the Adapt & Grow initiative following retrenchment, the spokesperson added.

The United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries (UWEEI), a labour union under NTUC, will also be working together with NTUC’s e2i for the purpose of assisting the IBM staff who are being laid off with work placements, said UWEEI’s executive secretary Melvin Yong.

200 IBM workers retrenched from IBM’s Tampines plant around mid-2018 due to relocation of Power Systems product manufacturing process to Mexico

In the middle of last year, around 200 workers, including “blue-collar” workers involved in manufacturing and “white-collar” workers in managerial and executive positions, were retrenched from the IBM plant at the Singapore Technology Park.

The retrenchment exercise was reportedly carried out as a part of the relocation of its Power Systems product manufacturing process to a facility in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Responding to TODAY Online‘s queries, the American multinational technology company, which has its headquarters in New York, rationalised the move as a part of its “continual review of the most efficient way to source our products”. 

IBM had reportedly planned to retrench as many as 10,000 of its staff globally in early 2018, and to shift as many as 30,000 staff from its workforce pool to new positions in a bid to restructure its Global Technology Services division.

The computing firm, however, declined to reveal the number of workers who have been retrenched in Singapore.

On 29 June last year, a reader, whose contract as “a Logistics Service provider to IBM” was scheduled to cease at the end last month, alerted TOC to an impending layoff exercise at the IBM Singapore plant in Tampines.

Another reader, a contract staff with Geodis Wilson at the time last year, had also submitted a letter regarding IBM’s decision to move its manufacturing processes to Mexico “was announced by IBM on May 02”, and that “the company started the lay-off at the end of May for all contractual staff”.

The reader noted that a petition among some of the workers was sent to UWEEI regarding IBM’s alleged refusal to compensate the retrenched workers.

“It was a rather disappointing news to Singaporeans working here, as our hope was to be able to work for another 2 years.

“Plus, […] our Management announced last October that IBM has renewed our contract for 3 years, with effect from Oct 2017, and was due to last until Sept 2020,” he wrote.

“However, when the finalised retrenchment package was announced to us by a Junior Manager without the presence of Human Resources Department at 3pm on 29 June, we were told that the company will only pay us 2 weeks per year of service as permitted the Employment Act (Clauses 18 and 19)”, he elaborated.

He also noted that IBM had “subsequently rejected our claims for a pro-rated annual wage supplement (AWS), which was normally paid to us at the end of December, stating that we did not complete a 12-month cycle to be entitled”.

“The news was shocking to us, as our Operation Manager has stated during the first announcement to re-size our operations that he will try to seek compensation from IBM.

“However, a Junior Manager told us two weeks later that IBM has refused to compensate us at all,” the worker wrote.

“Several affected staff were former IBM staff before the logistics contract was awarded to Geodis Wilson in 2009.

“We were told by IBM that Geodis will follow the pay-out according to what IBM has been doing for their staff.

“After 9 years, we wonder if IBM has made empty promises or if Geodis has short-changed us by hiding behind the Employment Act minimum requirement in order to profit from this retrenchment exercise,” he lamented.