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COVID-19 impact: Suntec Singapore retrenches 85 roles, including HR, finance and sales

COVID-19 impact: Suntec Singapore retrenches 85 roles, including HR, finance and sales

As a result of COVID-19's severe impact to the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions), which led to all events being suspended since April 2020, Suntec Singapore Convention Exhibition Centre (Suntec Singapore) has had to let go of 85 roles.

This workforce rationalisation plan was announced by Suntec Singapore and Building Construction And Timber Industries Employees' Union (BATU), under which the organisation is unionised. 

The 85 roles affected across the company includes "sales, operations and support functions such as finance and HR," per the statement. Effective date of notice is on 27 August 2020, whereby affected employees will serve their notice period from 1 September 2020.

Suntec Singapore has committed to provided the following outplacement support to affected employees:

  1. Affected and eligible employees will be receiving a month's salary for every year of service as severance payment, in accordance with the collective agreement signed with the union.
  2. Eligible staff will also be paid their pro-rated annual wage supplement for the year and be allowed to encash their remaining annual leave entitlements.
  3. All affected staff will also be allowed to use their entire notice period to plan for their future, such as taking time to attend job fairs, interviews and training.
  4. Local staff will also receive assistance from the NTUC Job Security Council ( to be matched to job openings). NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) has identified at least two job opportunities for every affected local staff.
  5. Together with e2i, BATU will also arrange for affected staff to attend virtual or physical job fairs and employability workshops, and offer further assistance with job applications and counselling where necessary.
  6. Suntec Singapore will be according a one-off training grant of S$25,000 to BATU that will support union members’ efforts in upskilling or reskilling for new jobs. Eligible union members would also be assisted in applying for the NTUC Care Fund COVID-19 which provides additional one-off support worth up to S$300

These have been provided in close consultation with BATU, in compliance with the NTUC Fair Retrenchment Framework.

NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng has been monitoring the process since he was first informed. In a Facebook post, he shared: "In this tough situation, the strong labour-management relations between BATU and Suntec Singapore has resulted in a fair process. A strong Singaporean Core remains in the team."

As such, post the retrenchment exercise, Suntec Singapore maintains a strong Singaporean core. Essentially, it employs 149 locals and 29 non locals (84% locals and 16% non-locals). With the retrenchment of the 85 roles (comprising 60 locals and 25 non-local staff), Suntec Singapore will maintain a core of 89 locals and 4 non locals (96% locals; 4% non locals).

"Due care has also been taken to ensure an ageless workforce, maintaining staff across the various age groups," the statement added.

Arun Madhok, Chief Executive Officer of Suntec Singapore, said: "This decision has not been taken lightly and does not in any way reflect the performance of any staff.

"Every individual in our team has contributed to the success of our company for many years and I am truly sorry to have to ask many of our wonderful and talented people to look for alternative employment."

This announcement comes after Suntec Singapore already implemented a series of cost control measures working with BATU since early February.

These included the elimination of non essential spending, hiring freezes, internal and external redeployment of staff, clearing of annual leave, shorter work weeks, and temporary salary reductions (in the form of unpaid leave). The management team led the way by taking up to 40% in pay cuts.

Commenting on BATU’s efforts to ensure fair treatment of workers, Zainal Sapari, Executive Secretary of BATU, said, “For the past few months, BATU has been working very closely with Suntec Singapore to explore ways to help the business whilst protecting jobs.

"We are deeply appreciative to be able to maintain an honest and transparent discussion with Suntec from the start, especially so when the company has to inevitably conduct a retrenchment while keeping BATU in close consultation throughout."

Gilbert Tan, Assistant Director-General, NTUC, and CEO, NTUC’s e2i, added: "We also urge other businesses to approach us so we can come in early to provide job facilitation support and help affected workers to transit quickly into new employment."  

Photo / 123RF

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