ExxonMobil to cut 300 jobs in Singapore, citing 'unprecedented market conditions' due to Covid-19

ExxonMobil has more than 4,000 employees in Singapore, where its biggest integrated petrochemical complex is also housed. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - ExxonMobil will cut about 300 positions from its workforce in Singapore, where its largest refinery is located, by the end of 2021.

This represents about 7 per cent of its headcount in the Republic, as unprecedented market conditions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated ongoing reorganisation, it said on Tuesday (March 2).

All the affected staff are professionals and managers, and will be notified between March 8 and 12, Mr Chew Boon Jin, president of the ExxonMobil Singapore Employees Union, told The Straits Times on Wednesday.

He added that the last day of payroll for these employees would be on April 30, 2021.

The Singapore layoffs come after ExxonMobil announced last October it would slash its global workforce by 15 per cent by the end of 2022. The company had said then that the cuts would come through attrition, targeted redundancy programmes and scaled-back hiring.

The oil major has more than 4,000 employees in Singapore, where its biggest integrated petrochemical complex is also housed. Its refinery has a capacity of about 592,000 barrels a day.

In its statement, ExxonMobil said that Singapore continues to be a strategic location for the company, with a world-scale manufacturing complex and a talented workforce.

It remains committed to providing energy and products that are essential for society, while managing operations safely and responsibly, including reducing the risks of climate change, the firm added.

"This is a difficult but necessary step to improve our company's competitiveness and strengthen the foundation of our business for future success," said Ms Geraldine Chin, who took over as chairman and managing director of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific in January.

"We are providing transitional support to our colleagues who are impacted and are focused on getting through this challenging time."

An ExxonMobil spokesman added that the firm will be providing support, including counselling and outplacement services, to all affected colleagues.

It has engaged with the Ministry of Manpower and union leaders ahead of the announcement, the spokesman added.

In response to ST queries, Mr Lim Wey-Len, senior vice-president and head of energy and resources at the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), said that ExxonMobil's reduction in staff levels is a business decision to ensure its long-term competitiveness and deal with near-term challenges.

"ExxonMobil remains committed to its operations in Singapore, which includes its largest integrated refining and petrochemical complex globally and its Asia Pacific hub for its downstream, chemical, and LNG (liquefied natural gas) businesses," he said.

He said that the EDB is working with ExxonMobil and other government agencies to provide assistance to affected employees by facilitating job placement in other companies.

The oil giant is one of Singapore's largest foreign investors, with more than $25 billion in fixed asset investments.

In March last year, it held a virtual foundation-laying ceremony for its multibillion-dollar expansion of its Jurong Island refining and petrochemical complex. That investment, which will enable it to increase its production capacity for higher-value products and cleaner fuels, was expected to create 135 new jobs.

Other oil industry majors have announced job cuts in recent months, amid predictions that oil consumption may never rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

Last November, Shell Singapore said it will cut 500 employees from its headcount of 1,300 at its Pulau Bukom site by end-2023, as it downsizes operations and pivots away from crude oil towards a low-carbon slate of fuels.

This came two months after its parent company said it will cut as many as 9,000 positions worldwide by end-2022 as Covid-19 precipitated a company-wide restructuring into low-carbon energy.

Later in November, Chevron said it could slash at least 10 per cent of jobs in its Singapore operations. Earlier in May, the US oil giant had announced it would cut about 6,000 out of nearly 45,000 global jobs.

Last year, London-headquartered BP announced that 10,000 employees globally would be made redundant.


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