Suntec REIT’s CEO Chong Kee Hiong suggests allowing workers to take up second job for “better job security”, but his company retrenched 85 workers in August

Member of Parliament (MP) for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Chong Kee Hiong, earlier on said that employers who currently bar their full-time employees from taking up a second job should change their thinking, adding that workers should be allowed to do so for “better job security”.

Mr Chong put forth his proposal in Parliament on 1 September, adding that this should be subject to labour regulations to ensure that workers are protected from overwork and to regulate potential conflict of interests.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) member noted that workers could “learn and apply new skills to pursue an additional vocation within the same company or in a second job”.

He believes that such a practice would help workers to broaden their skillsets and allow “more flexibility in career switches within a short window of time” if necessary.

Mr Chong went on to suggest employers identify complementary sectors that are “sufficiently differentiated to provide resilience through diversification” which would also allow employees to take up “concurrent positions in different business units”.

“Maybe conglomerates with diversified businesses can try this first, have their employees take on dual roles in their different companies. Their pay should not be affected.

“While this dual-job thinking may seem out of the box, we should recognise that there are many Singaporeans who possess multiple skillsets and would be able to contribute at a higher level within the same company. Or seek a second vocation to diversify their income sources,” he noted.

Though Mr Chong acknowledged that this approach may not work for everyone or certain jobs, he said companies and employees who want to try should be allowed to do so, and that government could incentivise companies to adopt this approach.

But coming from the CEO of Suntec Real Investment Trust (Suntec REIT), Mr Chong’s Parliament speech left us questioning why didn’t he implement this approach in his company and choose to redeploy the staff to another vocation instead?

Earlier on 27 August, Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (Suntec Singapore) reportedly had retrenched 85 workers – 60 Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) and 25 foreign workers – which caused by the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suntec Singapore comes under the portfolio of Suntec REIT, which overseen by Mr Chong as the CEO.

The company claimed that it has implemented cost-cutting measures since February, which include hiring freezes, redeployment of staff, clearing of annual leave, shorter work weeks and temporary salary reductions in the form of unpaid leave.

Additionally, it removed non-essential spending and asked the management of Suntec Singapore to take up to 40 per cent in pay cuts.

The Straits Times reported that the affected employees who are eligible will be getting a month’s salary for every year of service as a severance payment, and will also be paid their pro-rated annual wage supplement for the year and be allowed to encash their remaining annual leave entitlements.

While all affected staff will be allowed to make use of their notice period to attend job fairs, interviews and training.

Suntec said the NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute has identified at least two job opportunities for each local employee who is affected, adding that the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU) will arrange job fairs, employability workshops, and assistance with job applications and counselling.

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