SIA to reduce 2,400 staff across its airlines and operate a smaller feet to “remain viable” amid uncertain COVID-19 crisis

The Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group on Thursday (10 September) announced that it will slash about 2,400 staff across SIA, SilkAir and Scoot in Singapore as well as overseas station due to the unprecedented global aviation crisis.

In a press statement, SIA said that it had to cut about 4,300 position across its airlines, however, the retrenchment has been “mitigated by a recruitment freeze that was implemented in March 2020, open vacancies that were not filled, an early retirement scheme for ground staff and pilots, and a voluntary release scheme for cabin crew”.

As a result, the Group have eliminated some 1,900 positions and reduced the potential job cuts to about 2,400 across its airlines.

“Discussions have begun with our Singapore-based unions. The Group will work closely with them to finalise the arrangements as soon as possible for those affected, and try to minimise the stress and anxiety on our people,” SIA added.

According to SIA, the retrenchment decision was taken “in light of the long road to recovery for the global airline industry due to the debilitating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the urgent need for the Group’s airlines to adapt to an uncertain future”.

As the Industry groups have forecast that passenger traffic will not return to previous levels until around 2024, SIA noted that it expects to operate under 50 per cent of its capacity at the end of this financial year as compared to the pre-COVID levels.

It went on to say that SIA Group is in an “even more vulnerable position” as it does not have a domestic market that will be the first to see a recovery while comparing with the most major airlines in the world.

“In order to remain viable in this uncertain landscape, the Group’s airlines will operate a smaller fleet for a reduced network compared to their pre-COVID operations in the coming years,” it added.

SIA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Goh Choon Phong also expressed that none of them could have predicted the “devastating impact” of COVID-19 on the global aviation industry.

“From the outset, our priorities were to ensure our survival and save as many jobs as possible. Given that the road to recovery will be long and fraught with uncertainty, we have to unfortunately implement involuntary staff reduction measures,” Mr Goh said.

Highlighting that it is the “hardest and most agonising decision” that he has had to make, the CEO noted this is “not a reflection of the strengths and capabilities of those who will be affected”, but due to an unprecedented global crisis that has engulfed the airline industry.

He then assured that the process will be conducted “in a fair and respectful manner”, adding that they will do their best to ensure that the affected employee “receive all the necessary support during this very trying time.”

In response of this, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung took to his Facebook page on Thursday said that the “Government will do all we can” to support the affected workers.

To help the retrenched SIA employee, Mr Ong mentioned that the Government will work with National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Singapore and industry partners to place the workers in jobs, help them transit to other industries, or enrol them in suitable industry attachment and traineeship programmes.

“I am sure their skills are much needed elsewhere too. More importantly, we will continue to press on, to restore air travel in a safe manner, to get SIA planes back up in the sky, and revive our air hub,” he remarked.

Earlier in March, the SIA group has announced that 96 per cent of its capacity that had been scheduled will be slashed after waves of increased border controls in many countries to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Of the total fleet of 147 planes, around 138 of SIA and SilkAir planes will be grounded. SIA’s budget unit, Scoot is going to suspend “most of its network” as it grounds 47 of its 49 planes.

This drastic cut in capacity is the company’s “greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence”, the airline remarked.

In February, board directors’ fees and management salaries were slashed, alongside the introduction of voluntary no-pay leave scheme for workers up to certain management positions, SIA noted.

Mr Goh himself personally volunteered to take a 15 per cent pay cut, while the executive vice-presidents taking a 12 per cent cut, and the senior vice-presidents 10 per cent.

It was also reported in April that a total of 30 SIA cabin crew members will redeployed as “care ambassadors” at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in Yishun.

Without any direct contact with COVID-19 patients, the team will be assigned to low-risk wards as well as support hospital care teams to carry out basic caregiving procedures, nutritional care, as well as patient service management for patients. These general wards cater to patients with chronic diseases, heart disorders, and acute surgical conditions.

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