Ground-handling firm dnata retrenches workers in Singapore

Ground-handling firm dnata may have laid off more than 100 employees. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Dubai-based ground-handling firm dnata on Friday (Aug 28) retrenched workers in Singapore as the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the firm's operations.

According to workers, the firm may have laid off more than 100 employees. Dnata did not confirm the figure when asked, and NTUC declined to comment on how many union members were affected in the retrenchment exercise.

Dnata employs more than 1,800 people in Singapore and has been operating here for 50 years, according to its website. It provides services such as in-flight catering, cargo and passenger security services.

Retrenched workers said they were taken by surprise.

A Singaporean worker in her 60s, who had worked at the firm for more than three decades, said: "I cried because I have worked there for so long and my colleagues are like sisters and brothers to me."

Another worker, also in her 60s, said she suspected she would be laid off when she saw that her name was missing from the list of duties in an e-mail sent to staff each morning.

Her fears were confirmed when her supervisor asked her to go to the human resources department. "Before I found out, I felt sad for my colleagues who were affected because they were good workers. I didn't realise I would be laid off too."

Both employees declined to be named for fear of repercussions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to global trade and industry, and devastated the aviation and travel sectors.

A dnata spokesman said: "The situation remains very fluid with unpredictable demand, schedule and capacity changes becoming the norm. Considering this operating environment, and like so many other organisations in Singapore that have been impacted, we've had to take steps to right-size our business and ensure it is fit for purpose."

He said the firm has worked closely with the union and government agencies and is complying with the Government's Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment

The firm will have a larger proportion of Singaporeans after the retrenchment exercise, he said, going up from 63 per cent of dnata's workforce in Singapore to 73 per cent after the retrenchment.

The spokesman said the company has engaged the dnata Singapore Staff Union and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to share job vacancies and upcoming job fairs, as well as facilitate individual career coaching sessions for affected employees.

Dnata Singapore Staff Union president Sheikh Muhammed said it is a difficult time, especially for those working in aviation and its supporting industries.

"While efforts have been made to protect jobs and livelihoods, we understand that the company is facing extremely challenging times and has little choice but to right-size. We stand in solidarity with our fellow workers and will do everything we can to help them during this difficult time," he said.

NTUC assistant director-general and e2i chief executive officer Gilbert Tan said e2i will engage affected workers to share suitable job opportunities and provide access to resources such as career consultation and employability workshops.

He said: "We strive to be a step ahead to protect workers' livelihoods by matching them to the jobs gathered by the NTUC Job Security Council. To make this work, we urge companies to come forward, to work with us so that workers can find jobs prior to any retrenchment should it be unavoidable."

The lay-offs at dnata come amid a spate of retrenchments in the hard-hit aviation and aerospace sector.

Boeing Asia Pacific Aviation Services (Bapas), a joint venture between The Boeing Company and SIA Engineering Company, on Thursday said ir was retrenching 27 employees.

The workers, who include engineers and professionals from different functions across the venture, make up about 13 per cent of the 204-strong workforce at Bapas, which provides fleet management services for Boeing aircraft.

On Aug 3, aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney laid off around 400 staff at five of its six facilities here. The company employs more than 2,000 workers in Singapore, and the layoffs comprised 20 per cent of its local workforce.

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