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The Importance of Retrenchment Policies in Singapore

Question:

Discuss about the Managing Layoffs And the Role of Business.

The shutting down of a company, industry or a firm can be attributed to various reasons like a slowdown in the economy, which has many negative consequences attached to it. Employers, employees, the industry, the society and the government are all affected when a company shuts down. The closing down of a plant can be defined as an act of stopping the operations of a part of a plant or complete shutting down of the entire plant with the aims of downsizing, which itself is instigated by a poor or slow economic condition (Gaudencio, Coelho & Ribeiro, 2017).

By ‘business’, one typically refers to different organizations, the employers and the companies. According to government norms, it is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that the retrenchment process is done properly and ethically, when a plant shuts down. Strategies must be adopted so that the company is operating in the most efficient manner and not incurring any costs (Chung & Lee, 2017).

One of the most significant examples of such a close down is the case of the Coca-Cola Singapore Beverages (CCSB) in Tuas. The firm was making infrastructural changes and making plans in forms of investment, to shift its plant to Malaysia from Singapore, which was estimated to have been affecting 200 employees. However, the company hired 450 workers across Singapore afterwards, after suggestions and recommendations that were made by the NTUC. Employees are also supposed to be notifying the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) when they are deciding to shut down and are obligated to give their employees the chance and knowledge of a notice period, the length of which depends on for how long the specific employee part of the company is (Smith, Ang & Gan, 2017). The process has greatly helped in ensuring the rights of the labors as in the case of employees of Resorts World Sentosa (Leong, 2016). The management of RWS worked in tandem with MOM and the Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) to make sure the employees get their rightful benefits This case required the support of the labor unions as the individuals who did not take the retrenchment offer were sacked as the company had to cut down costs and gave training and made sure employees earning below SG $ 4500 were given reimbursement and training. The norms of retrenchment policies also helped employees in the case of Goldman Sach’s downsizing of employees in Singapore. The Goldman Sach’s increasingly cuts employees to maintain a profitable revenue in terms with their competitors (Reuters, 2016). The Management of Goldman Sach’s make sure that the employees who are being retrenched are notified beforehand and given proper reimbursement. The management paid the employees a good amount as parting benefit as it was shifting operations. The employees of the Goldman Sachs were given better opportunities in the competitive firms to improve their chances at getting work.

Labor Unions Role in Managing the Layoffs

The labours and the labour unions have a major role to play in managing the layoffs in the organization helping in the proper  management of the different issues arising between the management and the employees during the layoff procedure (Seow, 2015). According to the laws in Singapore, the employees who have served more than two years are eligible for the retrenchment benefits while the other employees may get payments for the maintenance of the goodwill of the company (Yue & Das, 2015).

In the case of the layoffs by the Standard Chartered bank of Singapore to cut the operations cost of the bank, the reimbursement and the retrenchment of the employees were provided as they were given a certain notice period to serve before their final layoff. The labour unions in Singapore act as buffers and communication channels between the employers and the labors. The management of the layoff and the retrenchment of the worker were planned by the different authorities governing the bank with the help of the local workers union body. (Hardasmalani, 2015). The union played an active role in decision of the reimbursement benefits and the training of the employees.

The Australia and New Zealand bank is one of the other examples where the laid off employees managed to learn other trades and the NTUC played an important role in this (TODAYonline, 2016).  Since the retrenchment was well managed and in small batches it was not highlighted by the organization. The MOM and the WSG made sure that the retrenched employees get employment facilitation support. The HSBC bank is Singapore too is focusing on cutting costs by laying off employees and the labour unions make sure that these companies follow retrenchment policies and the rights of the employees are not hampered. The employees mostly shifted to different banking jobs with the help of MOM (The Straits Times, 2016).

The government involvement in managing the communication of the layoffs in the different organizations helps in making sure that the rights of either parties are not hampered. There are a number of problems during the laying off that are solved by a different set of laws (Bhaskaran, 2016). The government often faces tough challenges in providing job opportunities as in the case of oil and gas employees when they were laid off (AsiaOne, 2016). The government retrenchment and retraining policies haled these employees get different jobs by training them with different skill sets.

Examples of Retrenchment Policies in Singapore

In case of retrenchment, the retrenchment guidelines made sure that the Workforce Singapore (WSG), the tripartite partners – MOM, NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) should be informed to enhance the employability of the individuals through training (Cascio, 2014).  This played a very important role when Rakuten chose to close its operations in Singapore laying off more than 100 employees and the government made sure their needs were fulfilled  The employees were given one month’s notice and retrenchment benefits such as reimbursement and support for the training and the development program as the firm was not unionized. The tripartite laws take into account the different practises of retrenchment of the employees in the case of the closing of an organization. (Chuan, 2016).

The government ensures that the advisories are followed as in the case of Maersk Line which had a massive layoff of 4000 employees in 2017. The lack of funding for the operations caused this decision but government took responsibility to provide other opportunities to the employees and they were given one month’s notice and a proportionate amount of money. The tripartite laws take into account the different practises of retrenchment of the employees in the case of the closing of an organization. MOM made sure that the employers follow the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (Mom.gov.sg, 2018).

Certainly, it is quite crucial for government to intervene and take initiatives for improving the layoff situation. In the modern times, due to the automation of the majority of the processes across a number of organizations the advisory and guidelines of retrenchment help in protecting the rights of the labours in the country. One of the guidelines that given out is the voluntary separation schemes which will be provided by the employers if the position is becoming redundant or the company is in the restructuring process. The guidelines about the retrenchment policies of the employees and the retrenchment benefits given to them cone under the Tripartite Guidelines. Hence, the staffs can have an informed consent with a clear detail and decide whether or not they want to follow the scheme. The guidelines take into account the notice period of informing the employee about the retrenchment, and the different parties to be informed beforehand, the cause to be shown to the employees while informing about their retrenchment (Mom.gov.sg, 2017).

One of the examples of great government interventions in retrenchment was that in the case of Singapore Press Holdings where the employees were informed about the job cut minutes before. In this case the monitory of Manpower and the NTUC held a career counselling and employment drive for them and also gave retrenchment grants (Seow, 2017). The Barclays Bank also retrenched 100 employees in Singapore in what is seen as one of the worst retrenchment exercises. In such case government intervention helps the employees get alternative jobs and a certain undisclosed amount as reimbursement (Boon, 2016). Royal Bank of Scotland is another bank which retrenched almost 2600 employees. The government help and the career counselling helped them find jobs in the growing banks in Singapore like the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Independent, 2016).

Government Interventions in Retrenchment

Conclusion

Therefore, the different policies and by the government and the different bodies of labour parties in Singapore make sure that the labours get their due share of rights in the changing market and the organizational changes. The fact that stands out is the government and the labour unions go the extent of training the employees to improve their job prospects greatly stands out (Abdullah & Chan, 2016).The responsibility of the government is to ensure the welfare the right of its citizen and by the retrenchment policies and their able execution it makes sure that the rights of the working population is not hampered.

References

Abdullah, M. A., & Chan, R. K. (2016). Foreign Labor In The Midst Of The Asian Economic Crisis: Early Experiences From Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan And Singapore. Jurnal Kinabalu (eJK), 4.

AsiaOne. (2016). Axe to fall on hundreds more in Singapore oil & gas sector. [online] Available at: https://www.asiaone.com/business/axe-fall-hundreds-more-singapore-oil-gas-sector [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].

Bhaskaran, M. (2016). THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CLOSER RELATIONS A Perspective from Singapore. The SIJORI Cross-Border Region: Transnational Politics, Economics, and Culture, 125.

Boon, R. (2016). Barclays laying off 100 employees in Singapore. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/banking/barclays-laying-off-100-employees-in-singapore [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].

Cascio, W. F. (2014). Alternatives to downsizing: Efforts in responsible restructuring. Members-only Library.

Chuan, T. (2016). Rakuten to shut Singapore website, cuts 30 local staff. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/rakuten-to-shut-singapore-website-cuts-30-local-staff [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].

Chung, W. K., & Lee, L. Y. (2017). 50 Years of Singapore's Productivity Drive. World Scientific.

Gaudencio, P., Coelho, A., & Ribeiro, N. (2017). The role of trust in corporate social responsibility and worker relationships. Journal of Management Development, 36(4), 478-492.

Hardasmalani, R. (2015). Gloom at StanChart S’pore as bank announced 15,000 job cuts globally. [online] TODAYonline. Available at: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/gloom-stanchart-spore-bank-announced-15000-job-cuts-globally [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].

Independent, T. (2016). Few jobs available for retrenched senior banking staff. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.theindependent.sg/few-jobs-available-for-retrenched-senior-banking-staff/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].

Leong, G. (2016). Resorts World Sentosa laying off 400; analysts cite bad debt problem. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/resorts-world-sentosa-laying-off-400-analysts-cite-bad-debt-problem [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].

Mom.gov.sg. (2017). Tripartite Guidelines on Mandatory Retrenchment Notifications. [online] Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/~/media/mom/documents/employment-practices/guidelines/tripartite-guidelines-on-mandatory-retrenchment-notifications.pdf?la=en [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].

Mom.gov.sg. (2018).Tripartite Advisory On Managing Excess Manpower And Responsible Retrenchment. [online] Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/~/media/mom/documents/employment-practices/guidelines/tripartite-advisory-on-managing-excess-manpower-and-responsible-retrenchment.pdf?la=en [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].

Reuters. (2016). Exclusive: Goldman axing nearly 30 percent of Asia investment.... [online] Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-goldman-sachs-asia-jobs/exclusive-goldman-axing-nearly-30-percent-of-asia-investment-banking-jobs-sources-idUSKCN11T227 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].

Seow, J. (2015). Highly trained, middle-aged and out of work. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/highly-trained-middle-aged-and-out-of-work [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].

Seow, J. (2017). SPH starts retrenching staff. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/sph-starts-retrenching-staff [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].

Smith, C., Ang, K., & Gan, B. (2017). 5 Socio-economic rights activism in Singapore. A History of Human Rights Society in Singapore: 1965-2015, 96.

The Straits Times. (2016). HSBC said to cut senior investment-banking jobs to lower costs. [online] Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/banking/hsbc-said-to-cut-senior-investment-banking-jobs-to-lower-costs [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].

TODAYonline. (2016). S’pore job cuts at ANZ leave employees uncertain about future. [online] Available at: https://www.todayonline.com/business/spore-job-cuts-anz-leave-employees-uncertain-about-future [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].

Yue, C. S., & Das, S. B. (2015). The AEC beyond 2015: implementation and challenges for Singapore. Journal of Southeast Asian Economies (JSEAE), 32(2), 239-259.

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