Aircraft maintenance firm in talks on possible layoffs

Aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul company Eagle Services Asia has refuted rumours that it retrenched over 140 staff last week, telling The Straits Times that no employee has been confirmed as retrenched as yet, and all staff continue to be on its payroll.

The firm is locked in negotiations with the unions to find ways to keep as many jobs as possible, even as it put some of its staff on temporary paid leave to await the outcome.

Some employees had been called into a 10-minute briefing last Wednesday morning, where they were told to go on paid leave until the negotiations are complete.

More than 140 staff, including technicians and engineers, were reportedly placed on its retrenchment list, with most of them Singaporeans. Some were told to leave their workplace immediately, while others were said to be denied entry.

Eagle Services Asia, however, has refuted the retrenchment rumours and told ST yesterday that no staff member was barred from entering its premises. It confirmed that some affected employees have been allowed to take paid leave to wait for the outcome of the negotiations.

This has come in the face of a "customer-driven volume decline", said the company, which is a joint venture between SIA Engineering Company and American aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

"During this pandemic, it is a difficult time for all businesses. The aviation industry, among others, has been impacted particularly hard," it said. "We have had to make adjustments to the business. Staff departures are never easy."

Affected employees - some of whom have been with the firm for decades - have expressed disappointment with the way the management handled the situation.

One technician, who was at the briefing, was asked to leave the premises immediately. During the meeting, the management did not directly mention retrenchment but "it was obvious", said the employee, who was told to return on Aug 3 or, when negotiations are done, to sign a letter and clear out his locker.

"It was shocking, we weren't notified beforehand," said the staff member, who was escorted out by the management. "Many of us have spent the past few days wondering if our names would be on that final list. It is not fair to put us through that."

The company handed out four-month bonuses a few months ago, said some employees, who are baffled by the need for layoffs.

"They can give that much bonus, but how is it they are not able to retain us?" asked a technician, who has been with the company for more than 30 years. He added that his section could lose three technicians, including himself.

Negotiations between the company and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as well as unions, including the Air-Transport Executive Staff Union, SIA Engineering Company Engineers and Executives Union and Singapore Airlines Staff Union, are ongoing.

On Eagle Services Asia's retrenchment exercise, NTUC told ST: "Our priority at the moment is to ensure that the workers in the company are treated fairly and with dignity."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2020, with the headline Aircraft maintenance firm in talks on possible layoffs. Subscribe