Netizens slam Singapore’s dependence on foreign labour after Pratt & Whitney laid of 20% of local workforce

On Monday (3 August), aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney announced that it had retrenched 20 per cent of its workforce in Singapore. This means that 400 out of the more than 2,000 employees the firm has locally have lost their jobs.

Pratt & Whitney noted that its four companies unionised under the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU) had told SISEU of their plan to go ahead with a retrenchment exercise on Monday.

The four affected companies are Turbine Overhaul Services, Pratt & Whitney Component Solutions, P&W NGPF Manufacturing Company Singapore as well as Component Aerospace Singapore.

Those who were retrenched earlier by Eagle Services Asia, a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and SIA Engineering, were part of the 20 per cent of those who have been laid off.

The manufacturer, however, noted that fewer local employees were affected by the exercises, although locals still make up more than 77 per cent of its staff in Singapore after the retrenchments.

SISEU and Pratt & Whitney said in a joint statement that they are committed to making sure that “due process is observed and affected employees are accorded fair treatment and compensation packages”.

It also added that commercial aviation industry is predicted to only return to pre-COVID-19 levels in 2023 at the earliest. However, Pratt & Whitney noted that it is hoping for an earlier recovery so workers who wish to return to work can do so.

“The prolonged recovery timeline for commercial aviation forced this difficult but necessary decision by Pratt & Whitney companies,” the statement read.

This decision was made after implementing other cost-containment measures like temporary salary reductions and shorter work weeks, cancelling more merit, freezing hiring process and voluntary spending cuts, it added.

The statement also pointed out that four Pratt & Whitney had been discussing with SISEU and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on cost-cutting measure since April this year.

Calling retrenchment “a last resort”, the statement also went on to highlight that the retrenchment exercise was carried out in a “transparent, fair and responsible manner” under NTUC’s Fair Retrenchment Framework and the existing Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment.

Additionally, SISEU has also worked together with the Employment and Employability Institute to help make arrangements for affected employees to go for job fairs and employability workshops, as well as requested companies to offer affected employees with a one-off training grant for skills upgrading.

Pratt & Whitney first began its operations in Singapore 37 years ago, and the average employment tenure for its staff members in the country is 14 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard the aerospace industry due to the impact of international travel restrictions. One of the giant companies which had retrenched workers in Singapore is Rolls-Royce, where it said in July that it would cut about 240 jobs in the country due to the pandemic.

Upon reading this news, many netizens slammed Singapore for its over reliance on foreign labour as locals who are retrenched are not given the opportunity to take over the foreigners’ jobs. Penning their thoughts on the Facebook page of Channel News Asia, online users pointed out this over reliance will be a “doom” for Singapore, and that it is not right for Singaporeans to be laid off while the foreign talents get to keep their jobs.

Others said that it is sad that the COVID-19 pandemic has badly affected the aviation industry. They added that the pandemic has caused prolonged impact on the economy and will result to more bankruptcies in the future in other industries like tourism, retailer as well as F&B. Some even pointed out that the unemployment rate will increase after the Government stimulus ends.

Facebook user WI Chong predicted that the danger in aerospace in Seletar will stall over for the next two to three years, and it may not even “revive” after that.

“This was one of the economic transformation initiatives by the G. If it is hamstrung, then we just lost one piece of our economy,” the user said.

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