NTUC and three other labour unions said last Wednesday (29 Jul) that they have stopped unfair retrenchment practices by aircraft maintenance and repair company Eagle Services Asia. The company is a joint venture between SIA Engineering and American aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
After NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and his team for People’s Action Party (PAP) lost Sengkang GRC to Workers’ Party (WP) with 47.9 per cent of the vote against WP’s 52.1 per cent in the recent general election, Ng was seen personally handling the union dispute with the company Eagle Services Asia.
In fact, Ng had earlier even authorised the unions to prepare for legal industrial action.
The company was said to be “lack of transparency” and “disregard” for negotiations with the unions. It had not followed the due process for retrenchment.
Initially, the company had wanted to retrench 144 workers with the majority (56 per cent) being Singaporeans. Legal industrial action was averted after the company capitulated and “corrected” its retrenchment process.
The final retrenchment list would consist of around 44 per cent Singaporeans, with the rest being foreigners.
“While NTUC respects management’s needed measures to keep the business viable, we will stand up for our workers’ dignity, interests and fair play,” Ng said.
“I am glad that calm and good sense prevailed ultimately,” Ng added. “We have since been able to reach an amicable agreement with the company on the retrenchment.”
He said that when talks concluded, the parties had reviewed the selection criteria to ensure that the Singaporean core of the workforce is safeguarded.
Legal strikes today are virtually unheard of. The last legal strike in Singapore happened in 1986 when NTUC’s then secretary-general Ong Teng Cheong signed off on a two-day strike by members of the Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Employees’ Union against their employer, an American company.
Ng added that there must be “fair play” and “proper process” accorded to affected workers in any retrenchment.
Perhaps now that Ng is no longer a Cabinet minister, he has more time to really take care of the interests of Singaporean workers.