Duty free retailer DFS retrenches staff at Changi Airport, T Galleria at Scotts Road, and Chai Chee centre

DFS outlet selling wines and spirits at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 4. (Image by TY Lim / Shutterstock.com)

Hong Kong-based duty free retailer DFS yesterday (2 Oct) revealed that it has carried out layoffs at its store in Changi Airport, as well as at its T Galleria shop on Scotts Road and its shared services centre in Chai Chee.

When queried by TODAY regarding the number of staff affected by the retrenchment exercise, DFS declined to comment on the matter. However, the company said that it currently continues to employ nearly a thousand employees in Singapore.

A DFS spokesperson told TODAY that staff members in the liquor and tobacco concession operations at the Changi Airport store were handed formal notice of their termination.

“This will take effect in June 2020 when DFS will officially exit the concession and a new operator will assume management,” said the spokesperson.

Lotte Duty Free, The Shilla Duty Free and Gebr Heinemann were among leading duty free companies that had submitted bids for the Changi Airport liquor & tobacco concession, according to travel retail publication The Moodie Davitt Report in Aug, after DFS has decided not to place a bid for the concession after 38 years of operation.

DFS told The Business Times in Aug that around 500 people were “directly employed” at its liquor and tobacco concession operations, and that “they would have the option of working with the new operator or with other operators in the airport”, with some being potentially “deployed to other DFS locations in Singapore”

The retrenchment exercise, which DFS dubbed a “workforce reduction exercise”, had already taken immediate effect on 26 Sep for some of the staff members, predominantly those from T Galleria, according to a TODAY report on 27 Sep.

DFS “could have better handled” recent layoffs; employers should “act responsibly if they need to retrench”: Manpower Minister Josephine Teo

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Sat said, in light of DFS’ layoffs last month, that employers should “act responsibly if they need to retrench”.

She opined that “DFS could have better handled their recent retrenchment exercise, particularly in the way they communicated with their employees and how they offered the severance packages”.

“The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) has since stepped in to engage DFS. The company is now adjusting its approach and taking appropriate steps to address the concerns of the affected employees.

“The Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment & Employment Facilitation has also been activated. We will help the affected #DFS employees through this transition,” Teo assured.

“Retrenchment is never easy, but handling it sensitively and responsibly can go a long way in helping employees through the transition,” she said.

Teo also noted that “retrenchment levels in Singapore have not risen beyond that seen in the last few years”.

DFS said that it is “committed to carrying out (the retrenchment) exercise in a fair and sensitive manner”, adding that it has also come up with a “series of measures” to ease the transition of staff members who were retrenched, in tandem with guidelines by the Tripartite Advisory from the tripartite partners, comprising the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

“We will continue to work closely with (the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation), Workforce Singapore and external outplacement agencies to provide support to affected staff in their transition in the next several months,” said a DFS spokesperson.

Such measures will cover “outplacement assistance” featuring “personalised one-on-one career coaching, job-matching, careers and job fairs, re-training and re-skilling, and employability skills workshops”, as well as counselling for retrenched staff who require the service.

The DFS spokesperson also noted that it has received a letter on 25 Sep from the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers’ Union (SMMWU), a general union affiliated to NTUC, and is looking forward to “further dialogues” with both unions “to promote good industrial relations for our mutual benefit and that of our staff”.

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