Suntec Singapore lays off almost half of staff amid impact on Mice industry

Affected workers from Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre receiving support following the retrenchment exercise on Aug 27, 2020. PHOTO: NTUC

Nearly half of the employees of the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (Suntec Singapore) have been retrenched amid the ongoing decimation of the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry.

The venue said yesterday that the 85 workers - consisting of 60 Singaporeans and permanent residents, and 25 foreigners - held jobs in food production, sales and events, human resources, and finance.

With the retrenchment exercise, Suntec Singapore will have a remaining workforce of 89 local staff and four foreign staff.

"Due care has also been taken to ensure an ageless workforce, maintaining staff across the various age groups," said Suntec Singapore in a joint statement with the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union (Batu).

Suntec Singapore said the Mice industry has been severely impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and events have been suspended since April.

It has been working with Batu since February on cost-cutting measures, which include hiring freezes, redeployment of staff, clearing of annual leave, shorter work weeks and temporary salary reductions in the form of unpaid leave.

The management of Suntec Singapore has also taken pay cuts, it said, but uncertainty remains over when the situation will improve.

It said it consulted Batu on the retrenchment exercise, which was in compliance with the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) Fair Retrenchment Framework, tripartite advisories and the collective agreement with the union.

Suntec Singapore chief executive Arun Madhok said the decision was not taken lightly and did not reflect on anyone's performance.

"Every individual in our team has contributed to the success of our company for many years and I am truly sorry to have to ask many of our wonderful and talented people to look for alternative employment," he said.

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Suntec Singapore said staff will be allowed to use the notice period to make plans for their future. It will also give a one-off training grant of $25,000 to Batu to support union members to attend skills training for new jobs.

So far, NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute has identified at least two job opportunities for each local employee who is affected, said Suntec Singapore.

One employee who wanted to be known only as Mr Sulaiman, 39, said he appreciated the assistance from NTUC and other agencies.

The former audiovisual technician said he was presented with job matches such as installing infotainment systems in vehicles.

For now, Mr Sulaiman, whose wife is expecting their first child, plans to complete a training course for security officers before taking up a vocational licence to be a taxi driver. "To me, it's not the end of the world. I'd rather be optimistic," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2020, with the headline Suntec Singapore lays off almost half of staff amid impact on Mice industry. Subscribe