Singapore

Abruptly-retrenched workers resent lack of explanation

Amid wave of retrenchments, some resent lack of explanation

He joined the manufacturing plant at the start of the year as a safety coordinator and was kept on probation, though he felt he had met the company's requirements.

As the Covid-19 crisis deepened, the 30-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Mr Raihan, also took a pay cut.

Then, he was omitted from meetings and was not told what was happening at the company. Still on probation, he e-mailed his boss and was given a termination letter soon after.

Mr Raihan still does not know why he was let go, and he is not alone in feeling aggrieved by how he got the boot.

Amid a wave of layoffs in recent months, The New Paper spoke to several workers who lost their jobs abruptly.

A former Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) employee of eight years, who declined to be named, said she was sick on the day of her retrenchment on July 15 and was laid off via phone call.

"I wasn't told why I was retrenched. Till now, I still can't get closure."

Mr Tan Sing Dai, 33, who worked at RWS for seven years over two stints, said: "It would have been nice if we were informed in advance so we can at least say our goodbyes and make future plans instead of feeling a sudden sense of loss."

The Government and the labour unions have repeatedly called on employers to lay off workers only as a last resort and to do so fairly and responsibly, as retrenchments more than doubled in the past three months. There were 6,700 retrenchments between April and June, compared with 3,220 from January to March, preliminary figures showed.

In June, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo had also called on employers to terminate employment contracts sensitively.

In a written parliamentary reply to National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, Mrs Teo said a good number of wrongful dismissal claims have been from the abrupt manner of termination.

Mr Tay told TNP last Thursday that people are worried about the weak economy and reports on retrenchment exercises may add to the fear.

The $8 billion in support announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat last week will hopefully stave off some layoffs, Mr Tay said. He was heartened that NTUC's Fair Retrenchment Framework will be incorporated into the tripartite advisory on managing excess manpower.

IRB Law partner Muntaz Zainuddin said she still gets a sizeable number of inquiries about retrenchments, mostly from expatriates. Disguised retrenchments - where employers retrench workers but say they are being terminated for other reasons to avoid paying benefits - also remain prevalent, she added.

Mr Ian Lim, who heads the employment and labour team at TSMP Law, said there is greater awareness of the obligations of employers during retrenchments. With companies having to retrench workers in larger numbers, Mr Lim said it is unsurprising some may not have been able to put as much attention into tailoring individual conversations.

But employers should let workers know about retrenchments as soon as they can and explain the reasons.

Some workers told TNP they are still sore about their retrenchments but have found ways to bounce back.

Mr Tan now works part-time as a safe distancing ambassador and is taking a course to become a personal trainer, something he had always wanted to try.

Mr Raihan works 12 hours a day as a food delivery rider and takes up ad hoc security jobs to provide for his wife and two-year-old daughter.

He said: "All that was on my mind was that I needed to find another source of income to continue supporting my family and pay the bills."

Employment