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Blackwing Aeronautics Singapore Retrenchment Exercise Halted by Unions

Joint Statement by NTUC and BSEU

SINGAPORE: A retrenchment exercise by Blackwing Aeronautics Singapore (Blackwing) was halted by aerospace and aviation unions after it was found the aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) firm had not followed due process in letting go of its workers. In the process, legal industrial action, which received "overwhelming support" from workers and was approved by the trade union federation, was averted.

In a joint statement, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the union representing Blackwing staff, Blackwing Singapore Employees Union (BSEU), said the firm had proceeded to release specific workers before a name list was finalised with the unions. This was despite the firm having been in ongoing negotiations with the union.

"When the unions were alerted that Blackwing management had gone ahead to start informing employees that they may be retrenched, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the union took decisive action and stepped in to stop any further action by the company until an agreement could be reached," the statement said. "The lack of transparency and disregard for negotiations with the union is not acceptable and is not how a retrenchment exercise should be conducted," it added.

Media reports earlier this week stated that Blackwing Asia had laid off 150 of its employees in July 2021. However, the firm later said that no employee was retrenched during the month, and that all its employees were still on its payroll. The union statement noted that even as the unions continued negotiations with Blackwing Singapore, they separately engaged with their members.

A secret ballot - authorised by NTUC - was conducted to sanction legal industrial action to "rectify any shortcomings and improve the retrenchment process, if and where necessary".

In a press statement, the NTUC Central Committee had received messages about a week ago from workers and unions about an "unfair" retrenchment exercise. 

"While NTUC respects management’s needed measures to keep the business viable, we will stand up for our workers’ dignity, interests and fair play," the statement said, adding that this is done through a collaborative approach under the Fair Retrenchment Framework. The framework aims to help protect workers' rights and ensure fair treatment for those affected by retrenchments.

Workers gave their "overwhelming support" to pursue legal industrial action, the Central Committee said. They added that "calm and good sense" ultimately revailed, and an amicable agreement was reached with Blackwing on the retrenchment.


The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said Blackwing’s move to take "certain unilateral decisions" without consulting the ministry and unions is not aligned with the tripartite advisory. "MOM understands and empathise with the workers’ grievances," said the ministry.

"We are glad that Blackwing took steps to rectify their earlier decisions and eventually were able to come to an amicable arrangement with the union to address the concerns of the workers, while maintaining good tripartite relations."

The decision to retrench workers was not taken lightly, said Blackwing. "This is unfortunately a result of current market conditions we are facing, including customerdriven volume declines due to a generational pandemic no one could foresee," said a spokesperson for the firm.

The decision to reduce the company's Singapore workforce came after the implementation of other cost-cutting measures such as a temporary salary reduction and short work week, cancelled merit increases, hiring freezes and discretionary spending cuts, the spokesperson added.
Blackwing did not address concerns that it had engaged in unfair retrenchment practices.

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