Terminate so many, but say “not retrenchment”?

Termination of employment

Dozens of Surbana staff lose their jobs

I refer to the article “Dozens Surbana staff lose their jobs” (Straits Times, Jan 14).

It states that “Temasek Holdings-owned infrastructure consultant Surbana Jurong has terminated the employment of a number of employees as part of a performance management review, The Straits Times has learnt.

All the affected workers in Singapore?

All of the affected workers are based in Singapore, where the firm employs about 3,000 workers.

As many as 65 workers?

Surbana would not say how many workers have been laid off, but a spokesman said that less than 0.5 per cent of its global 13,000-strong workforce had been affected. That could mean up to 65 workers have lost their jobs.”

So, reading the above seems to indicate that all the terminated staff are in Singapore, the number is in the “dozens” up to as many as 65 workers.

Up to 2.2% or 0.5% of the workforce?

Also, up to 65 of the 3,000 workers in Singapore is about 2.2 per cent (65 divided by 3,000) of the workers in Singapore, which arguably does not sound as good as “less than 0.5 per cent of its global 13,000-strong workforce”.

Terminations not a retrenchment exercise, but rather, a small number of poor performers?

As to “The spokesman said the terminations were not a retrenchment exercise, but “rather, a small number of poor performers were communicated with and released” – if a company can terminate so many workers (dozens up to 65) and simply say that it is “not a retrenchment exercise” and call it “a small number” to boot – does it mean that it does not have to pay retrenchment benefits, terms and conditions?

If a company can terminate in one go – as many as 2.2 per cent of the workers or up to 65 workers – and call it “not a retrenchment exercise” – something doesn’t seem right – right?

With regard to “It is believed that the affected staff were handed letters last week and took the issue to union officials and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) this week.

The workers are represented by the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union and the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (Batu), both affiliated to NTUC.

The two unions said 18 union members were affected, most of whom are over the age of 62. Their re- employment contracts were prematurely terminated.

Why nobody mention “not a retrenchment exercise” issue?

… Batu, said the unions are working with Surbana on how to help the affected union members … “We are still talking to the company” he said” – arguably, shouldn’t the unions be telling the media (they are quoted in the subject Straits Times article) – that perhaps arguably, obviously the key issue may be that the company is saying that it was not a retrenchment exercise, instead of “the unions are working with Surbana on how to help the affected union members … “We are still talking to the company”?

Doing the job that unions are supposed to do?

Since dozens (up to 65) of Singaporeans may have lost their jobs in today’s economic downturn and poor job market – shouldn’t the unions be doing the job that unions are supposed to do in the first place – protecting workers?

MOM looking into 17 staff, but Straits Times said dozens up to 65?

In respect of “An MOM spokesman said it is looking into terminations involving 17 staff under the Surbana group of companies, and that it is providing assistance to those involved” – if there were dozens up to 65 workers – why is it that “it is looking into terminations involving 17 staff (only) … providing assistance” ?

The numbers implied in the subject Straits Times article do not seem to tally with the MOM numbers?

Spun off from 2 statutory boards?

Moreover, as to “Surbana Jurong was formed in June 2015 through the merger of urban planning consultancy Surbana International Consultants and industrial and infrastructure engineering group Jurong International” – it means that Surbana is in essence the ultimate outcome of spun offs from two statutory boards – HDB and Jurong Town Corporation (JTC)? (Source: Surbana Jurong’s web site – “SJ traces its roots to the Housing Development Board (HDB) and the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC))”.

Setting a bad example?

So, what kind of example is a former “(two statutory boards)” company setting to other employers? What sort of message is it sending to other employers as to how to treat Singaporean workers in a layoff (so called “not a retrenchment exercise)?

Indirectly government-linked and government-owned?

Perhaps to compound the shame and gravity of it all – the subject Straits Times article said “Temasek Holdings-owned infrastructure consultant Surbana Jurong”.

Treating S’poreans fairly?

So, Temasek derives its funds to invest from Singaporeans and this is how a company that it owns treats Singaporean workers.

If something like this happens in a global MNC – there may be worldwide displays of displeasure or condemnation by the staff, shareholders or customers who buy its products or services.

I hate to and don’t normally say this, but shame on whoever made this sort of decisions in such a way – if the Straits Times reporting is “correct”.

How many employers have been doing this?

By the way, how many employers have done such similar “not a retrenchment exercise” in the past?

S’poreans less proud of our world class companies?

With regard to “The firm has no lack of project supply. Its international operations chief executive … told a roundtable last October that the company has “over 1,000 projects in the pipeline” – when a company that boasts of “The firm has no lack of project supply …¬†the company has “over 1,000 projects in the pipeline” and then does this sort of “not a retrenchment exercise” just three months later – it may arguably be “adding insult to injury” to the grief and predicament of the affected workers and make Singaporeans much less proud of out world class government-linked and indirectly government-owned companies.

Majulah Singapura! – “Mari kita rakyat Singapura
Sama-sama menuju bahagia
Cita-cita kita yang mulia
Berjaya Singapura” (“Come, fellow Singaporeans
Let us progress towards happiness together
May our noble aspiration bring
Singapore success“)

Leong Sze Hian

 

 

About the Author

Leong
Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.