Pratt & Whitney lays off 400 staff at five of six facilities across Singapore due to pandemic

Turbine Overhaul Services, one of the Pratt & Whitney facilities represented by the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney laid off around 400 staff at five of its six facilities in Singapore on Monday (Aug 3) amid the pandemic-induced downturn in the aviation industry.

The company employs about 2,000 workers here with an average employment tenure of 14 years.

It noted that the Singapore core will still form about 77 per cent of its workforce after the retrenchments.

Pratt & Whitney, which has been operating here for around 37 years, has been working with the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union (SISEU) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on cost-saving measures to protect jobs since April.

These included temporary salary reductions and shorter work weeks, cancellation of merit increases, hiring freezes and discretionary spending cuts.

Retrenchment was "taken as a last resort", said the company in a joint statement with the union on Monday.

The aviation industry has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with global air travel crippled by border closures and airlines scrapping plane orders. Aerospace firms, including component manufacturers and maintenance facilities, are slashing costs and cutting manpower due to declining business.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus and jet engine maker Rolls-Royce have also shed jobs here while budget carrier Jetstar Asia has laid off 167 staff.

It has been forecast that it could take until 2023 at the earliest for commercial aviation traffic to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels, forcing "this difficult but necessary decision", said the statement.

United States-based Pratt & Whitney added that it "hopes this (recovery) will happen sooner so that employees who are keen can return".

The SISEU added that it was notified early last month of the upcoming retrenchments at the Pratt & Whitney facilities it represents - Turbine Overhaul Services, Pratt & Whitney Component Solutions, P&W NGPF Manufacturing Company Singapore and Component Aerospace Singapore.

Both parties said they will ensure affected employees are accorded fair treatment and compensation packages.

The union's immediate priority is to work with Pratt & Whitney to give affected employees the necessary assistance, including upgrading their skills. It will work with the NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute to arrange for workers to attend job fairs and workshops.

Besides the retrenchment packages, SISEU has asked Pratt & Whitney to offer laid-off staff a one-off training grant to update their skills.

Affected employees who are union members will also receive paid NTUC membership until the end of the year so they can continue to enjoy benefits, including bursary awards, financial relief under NTUC care and support programmes, insurance coverage, personal development and training assistance.

Last week, aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Eagle Services Asia, another Pratt & Whitney facility, laid off around 140 workers despite implementing similar cost-containment measures. The joint venture between SIA Engineering and Pratt & Whitney employed 829 people before the retrenchment.

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