May Day

Union leader prepares for own retrenchment

Mr Effendy is considering workplace safety courses and has also signed up to take a taxi driver vocational licence course.
Mr Effendy is considering workplace safety courses and has also signed up to take a taxi driver vocational licence course.

Mr Effendy Mohd Shariff has seen numerous workers laid off in his 24 years as a union leader, but he never thought he would have to handle his own retrenchment. He is about to.

The 50-year-old senior technician was told in March by Panasonic Industrial Devices Materials Singapore - where he has worked more than half his life - that it was shutting down next year.

Some 77 workers here, from production operators to management staff, will lose their jobs when production work for its chemical moulding materials moves to China and Thailand. Mr Effendy, who is the president of the Chemical Industries Employees Union, has to keep his personal worries in check while he helps his union members cope with the looming retrenchment.

"It is the first time I am retrenched," he said.

But he is more concerned about other workers who, unlike him, do not have a polytechnic diploma and may find it harder to find new jobs with similar pay.

In his May Day Rally speech yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited Mr Effendy and his colleagues as an example of workers losing jobs when companies move out of Singapore to countries with lower costs. "When the economy is growing, when the job market is still tight and expanding, we are still seeing companies retrenching people and some workers getting retrenched," said Mr Lee. "And the numbers are going up."

Layoffs climbed 20 per cent to 15,580 last year, with more expected this year. About 4,600 workers lost their jobs in the first three months of this year, more than the 3,500 during the same period last year.

Mr Effendy said his employer has done the right thing by informing workers and the Manpower Ministry about the retrenchment early to allow workers to pick up new skills for new jobs, and by agreeing to pay retrenchment benefits according to the collective agreement.

He is considering courses on workplace safety and has also signed up to take a taxi driver vocational licence course.

"I am prepared to do anything," said the family's sole breadwinner with a wry laugh. His wife is a homemaker and two of his four children aged 13 to 23 are in school.

He is worried that the prospect of being retrenched has not sunk in among some of his colleagues, most of whom are over 50 years old, who keep putting off going for training.

"I just have to keep persuading them that it is not too early to attend training courses," he added. "For us, what is certain is that in March next year, we will lose our jobs. There are still 10 months, but it will come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Union leader prepares for own retrenchment'. Print Edition | Subscribe