“Could have better managed”

I refer to the article “Surbana Jurong says it ‘could have better managed’ the dismissal of 54 workers” (Straits Times, Jan 24).

It states that “Temasek Holdings-owned infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong, which was criticised for not following due process when it terminated the service of 54 workers, acknowledged on Tuesday (Jan 24) that “the process could have been better managed”.

“Provide an “equitable and mutually agreeable arrangement””

In a joint statement with the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU) and Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU), Surbana Jurong said it was working closely with the union bodies to provide an “equitable and mutually agreeable arrangement” for the affected workers and to help them find new employment.”

“Equitable and mutually agreeable arrangement” means?

So, what does “equitable and mutually agreeable arrangement” mean?

Will Singaporean workers at large get to know what exactly will be the outcome later, so that we may know what to expect in the future?

Retrenchment benefits?

Will any of the 54 employees be getting some retrenchment benefits, as letting go 54 employees in one go may arguably, be akin to or in a sense be like a retrenchment?


Will any of the 54 employees who were unfairly treated and wrongfully dismissed without due process (“was criticised for not following due process when it terminated the service of 54 workers”) be considered for reinstatement from their date of termination?

In this regard, “BATU’s president, Nasordin Mohd Hashim, said in a Facebook post on last Friday that the way the 54 workers were “managed out” did not follow due process.”Usually, before a union member is terminated, the details of the case would be officially given to the union to ensure our members will be given fair treatment and that due process is followed. This was not observed,” he wrote” (“Process of sacking workers could have been ‘better managed’: Surbana” (Channel NewsAsia, Jan 24).

Will anyone of them be given their full salary and benefits following reinstatement from the date of termination?

Re-employment guidelines?

As to “Mr Nasordin added in the post that eight of the 14 BATU members were staff members who were offered re-employment or had their contract renewed” – it may appear that the re-employment act and corresponding TAFEP re-employment guidelines may not have been followed.

So, will these employees be re-employed or be given some compensation?

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too”?

If I may use an analogy – “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”.
If not performance, then retrenchment?
If its not a performance review exercise – then it arguably has to be a retrenchment – and thus retrenchment benefits may be in order.
If not retrenchment, then performance review?
If its not a retrenchment – then it has to be a “performance review” which as I understand it may mean:

… each employee should have been given the opportunity to go through a performance review/improvement process for about three to six months – clearly spelling out the employee’s performance shortcomings, followed by regular monthly review and feedback to help the employee address and improve on his or her performance shortcomings.

… if at the end of the performance review/improvement process period – if the employee is still found to be non-performing – the company can then decide to terminate the employee.

So, will any of the employees be given the opportunity to go through a performance review/improvement process now that both the company and the unions have acknowledged that due process was not adhered to?

Why nobody said anything – no criticism?

In respect of “Surbana Jurong’s management team met with the unions on Monday, said the statement” – why is it that none of the people (unions and MOM) who were quoted in the Straits Times article of 14 January which first broke the subject news story – said anything about “did not follow due process”, “ensure our members will be given fair treatment”, “this (official notification by the employer to the union) was not observed” – until only six days later (20 January in a facebook posting and now in the Straits Times on 24 January – and arguably only after the issue had exploded on social media?

As to “Unionists last week had slammed the way the 54 staff had been dismissed earlier this month, with some saying that due process was not followed for those workers who are union members” – I understand that the first facebook posting I believe only appeared on 20 January (which is the last working day (Friday)) of “last week” – six days after the news story first came out.

Did media ask the obvious questions?

Also, why is it that arguably, almost nothing of the sort was questioned or mentioned (as I understand it) in any of the media reports until now?
So, does it mean that the first time that the unions met the management was only on 23 January, and not earlier – since the date of termination of the employees which as I understand it was in the first week of January?

How widespread are such unfair practices?

I would also like to suggest to ask all Singaporeans who have ever been subjected to such unfair treatment by their employers, or who know about such practices in their company, or are a family member, friend or colleague who knows of such unfair treatment to come forward to share your story now, so that we know how widespread such unfair practices may be or have been.

What about all the other employers who have been doing this for all these years? Did anyone raise a whimper?

The way forward

“”Moving forward, Surbana Jurong and the unions also made a commitment to work on strengthening labour management relations,” said the statement.”

Leong Sze Hian

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