Pratt & Whitney retrenches 20% of Singapore-based staff

Current forecasts predict the industry will only recover by 2023 at the earliest

Pratt & Whitney retrenches 20% of Singapore-based staff

Pratt & Whitney has laid off just under 20% of employees based in Singapore. They made clear that retrenchment was a “last resort”.

The exercise affected most of the aviation company’s sites across the city-state, and was openly communicated in advance with employees.

According to a media statement, Pratt & Whitney companies, unionised under the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU), notified the union of their intention to retrench staff about a month before the exercise on August 3.

READ MORE: How to support retrenched employees

Like many others in the hard-hit sector, the prolonged recovery timeline for commercial aviation had forced management to make this difficult but necessary” decision. Current forecasts suggest it will take the industry until 2023 at the earliest for recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“Although current forecasts indicate it will take until 2023 at the earliest for commercial aviation traffic to recover to pre COVID-19 levels, the company hopes this will happen sooner so that employees who are keen can return,” said the firm.

Before this, the company had implemented other cost-containment measures including temporary salary reductions and shorter workweeks, cancellation of pay increases, hiring freezes and discretionary spending cuts.

The organisation has been working closely with SISEU and NTUC since April on the cost containment measures. They clarified that retrenchment was a ‘last resort’ and have collaborated with the unions to ensure a transparent, fair and responsible exercise as much as possible.

READ MORE: Labour unions stop ‘unfair’ retrenchment exercise

In addition to retrenchment packages for affected employees, the labour union had requested for Pratt & Whitney to provide affected employees with a one-off training grant and help boost employees’ efforts to upgrade their skills and better position themselves for future opportunities.

Employees who are union members will also be able to enjoy NTUC membership benefits including union bursary awards, as well as financial relief under NTUC care and support programs.

Pratt & Whitney will also continue to support course-related expenses for all affected employees on its Employee Scholar Program for 12 months after their departure.

“Pratt & Whitney will remain focused on repositioning the business to be resilient and relevant to customers’ needs as part of the company’s responsibility as a business to employees and other stakeholders, during this pandemic where recovery will take longer than expected,” said the firm.

Retrenchments may be unavoidable in a prolonged crisis like a pandemic. This is why Fong Tuan Chen, country HR & general affairs director at Samsung Electronics said that leaders have the have a responsibility to do the following during a crisis:

  • Protect as many of our people for as long as we can. Cut every other cost but never the people.
  • Stretch our productivity as far as we can with whatever means possible to save as many jobs as possible.
  • If all else fails, deliver bad news personally face to face.

“Don’t treat people like a commodity – treat them with dignity,” Chen said. “The hallmark of a great organisation is not how much profit it makes, how big its revenue is, how much assets it has, or how great its products are – it is how it treats its people.”

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