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November 16, 2008

Singapore: Retrenchment shouldn’t be the first resort to cut costs
Singapore's labour chief Lim SweeSay on Friday urged companies not to use layoff as the first resort to cutting costs in the economic slowdown period.

In a statement, Lim expressed his disappointment in the sudden decision by Singapore-based DBS Bank, the largest lender in Southeast Asia, to cut 900 jobs.

He said that the bank had not consulted with the DBS Staff Union on other alternatives to cutting costs. As a result, the perception on the ground is that DBS Bank decided on retrenchment as a first resort.

He said this has weakened the trust between the management and union, and that the reaction on the ground is critical and highly negative.

"It is regrettable because trust takes a long time to build but a short time to destroy," he said.

He stressed that whether retrenchment will reach a high of 30,000 next year in Singapore, like in 1998 during the Asian financial crisis, will depend on how companies conduct themselves during this downturn.

The secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said, "We do not demand zero retrenchment because we know fully well that at times, it is better to let go of some workers so that the remaining workers can survive and keep their jobs, then for business to be closed down and for all workers to lose their jobs.

"However, we do not support retrenchment as the first resort because there are alternatives for us to explore together to reduce cost and save jobs - from flexible wage system to flexible work arrangements," he added.

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