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

DFS offers retrenched staff new severance packages following negotiations

Hong Kong-based duty free retailer DFS has offered its retrenched staff members new severance packages following multiple rounds of negotiations, according to TODAY on Wed (6 Nov).

In a letter to retrenched employees, which was seen by TODAY and confirmed by several former employees of the duty free retailer, it was stated that affected staff members will now be receiving one month’s salary for every year of service, with a maximum of 25 years – an increase from the 13 years cap originally proposed.

The original limit was reportedly “below the minimum compensation stipulated in the Ministry of Manpower’s guidelines”, according to TODAY.

The employees reportedly received a message a day prior on Tue, requesting their presence in the DFS’ office in Chai Chee to discuss updates to the severance terms, TODAY observed.

Following feedback from DFS staff members and input from the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers’ Union, a spokesperson from DFS told TODAY that it is “committed to carry out (the retrenchment) exercise in a fair and sensitive manner”, adding that the company will “continue to work closely with our tripartite partners and external outplacement agencies to provide support to affected staff in their transition”.

Following the award of the tender to operate liquor and tobacco stores in Changi Airport to South Korean conglomerate Lotte Duty Free at the end of last month, DFS said that it will continue to operate luxury concessions at Changi, as well as its T Galleria outlet in Scotts Road and its Singapore Cruise Centre business, in addition to planning to expand its business elsewhere.

Lotte’s six-year term contract will begin on 9 June 2020, and will cover all 18 liquor & tobacco stores across Changi’s four terminals, spanning more than 8,000 sqm of retail space, according to a statement by Changi Airport Group on 24 Oct.

DFS previously indicated possibility of working jointly with new operators in Changi Airport

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.

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.

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 in Sep, 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.