SINGAPORE - 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 wait for the outcome.
Some employees had been called into a 10-minute briefing last Wednesday morning (July 22), 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. It also told ST on Tuesday (July 28) that no staff was barred from entering its premises. The company 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 the 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, 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."
He is unsure if he would still work there if allowed to stay. "Times are bad and it might be hard finding another job," he said.
The company had 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 an employee who has been with the company for more than 30 years. He added that his section could lose three technicians, including himself. He was asked to go home when he reported for work on July 22.
While he said he does not mind being laid off, he hopes the company will implement a fair criteria to ensure the local workforce is safeguarded.
Negotiations between the company and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as well as the unions including the Air-Transport Executive Staff Union, SIA Engineering Company Engineers and Executives Union, and Singapore Airlines Staff Union are ongoing.
The firm shared that it has been in talks with the unions "for a while", but did not say when these started.
Last Friday (July 24), the labour movement urged firms to ensure the Singaporean core of the workforce is kept intact and consider retrenchments as the last resort amid the uncertain economic outlook.
On the Eagle Services Asia 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."