Parliament: No clear evidence irresponsible retrenchments on the rise, says Lim Swee Say

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that there is no clear evidence that irresponsible retrenchments are on the rise, even with increasing retrenchments.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that there is no clear evidence that irresponsible retrenchments are on the rise, even with increasing retrenchments.PHOTO: TV SCREENGRAB

SINGAPORE - There is no clear evidence that irresponsible retrenchments are on the rise, even as retrenchments are on the rise, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say in Parliament on Monday (Nov 7).

In the first nine months of this year, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) handled 14 appeals from employees who felt they were unfairly retrenched or denied retrenchment compensations, out of a total of 63 retrenchment-related cases. Last year, the ministry handled 15 appeals out of 94 cases.

"On the whole, these cases account for a small proportion of the total number of local employees retrenched in 2015 and 2016 so far," said Mr Lim in response to questions from Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) and Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) on retrenchments in Singapore.

Some 11,890 workers were retrenched in the first nine months of this year, compared to 8,590 in the same period last year. In total, 13,440 workers were retrenched last year.

Said Mr Lim: "We expect the number this year to be higher due to on-going business restructuring and slowing economic growth."

Of the 29 retrenchment-related appeal cases the MOM handled both last year and this year, the retrenched workers in 28 cases were not entitled to retrenchment payments, either because they have worked less than two years or their contracts did not spell out such retrenchment payments, said Mr Lim. He added that they also did not have unions representing them.

In the remaining case, the MOM is helping the worker resolve the issue, he said.

Under Singapore's labour laws, workers who have worked less than two years are not entitled to retrenchment payments. Employers only have to compensate retrenched workers if such payments are spelt out in employment contracts or collective agreements with unions.

Mr Lim on Monday also cited a 2013 survey conducted by the MOM which showed that nine out of 10 companies with more then 25 staff paid retrenchment benefits.

"The prevailing norm then was two weeks to one month of salary for each year of service," he said, adding that the ministry is currently conducting another survey and the findings will be ready by the end of this year.