SPH chiefs address lapse during retrenchment

SPH Chief Executive Ng Yat Chung speaks to staff about SPH's restructuring process on Oct 12, 2017.
SPH Chief Executive Ng Yat Chung speaks to staff about SPH's restructuring process on Oct 12, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

CEO, deputy CEO say sorry after some 20 staff were locked out of computers prematurely

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) chief executive Ng Yat Chung yesterday called on staff to work together to take the company forward, while apologising for the "serious lapse" which locked some 20 employees out of their computers before they were informed of their retrenchment.

The staff from the English/Malay/Tamil Media group were among the 130 people that SPH began retrenching last Thursday as part of restructuring efforts.

In an e-mail to employees, Mr Ng said the plan was to restrict access to critical business systems for security reasons after affected staff were told of their retrenchment, but the lapse led to them being locked out prematurely.

"It was most disconcerting to find out about their retrenchment this way. That was never our intention," he said. "For the pain caused to these colleagues, I apologise for the serious lapse."

SPH deputy chief executive Anthony Tan also apologised for the lapse in a separate e-mail.

Their messages come amid negative reports making the rounds on social media, which Mr Ng said he wanted to address.

He reiterated that SPH faced an urgent need to "right-size and restructure" its core media business due to disruptions in the market. It had to reorganise its newsrooms and sales department to achieve greater efficiency and support its new media strategy, he added.

FOCUS ON TASKS AHEAD

It's up to us now, together, to focus on the many tasks before us, to invest in new capabilities, roll out the new media strategies, and try out new ideas to help ensure that our core media business will thrive in the face of disruption.

MR NG YAT CHUNG , SPH chief executive.

The media giant had announced last October that it would reduce its headcount by 10 per cent over two years, but the cuts will now be completed by year end, affecting a total of 230 workers. This figure includes the 130 being retrenched and another 100 staff who are either retiring or having their contracts terminated.

Almost all of those affected by the layoffs have been informed, and the remaining few should be notified by the end of this month, Mr Ng said.

Those retrenched are, in general, given one month's pay - tax free - for each year of service.

Mr Ng said the package is better than current tripartite guidelines.

Job and training information as well as professional counselling have been made available to affected staff, while colleagues and business partners have contributed job leads.

Mr Tan said he has requested small group meetings over the next few weeks to have candid and in-depth discussions on future plans for the media business.

"There are many... who continue to look forward to reading our products daily and we should focus our energies on serving them to the best of our abilities," he said.

Mr Ng said he is glad that operations have continued smoothly over the last few days, despite lower staff morale.

"I am thankful for all your efforts under these difficult circumstances; I am proud to be associated with all of you," he said.

"It's up to us now, together, to focus on the many tasks before us, to invest in new capabilities, roll out the new media strategies, and try out new ideas to help ensure that our core media business will thrive in the face of disruption."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'SPH chiefs address lapse during retrenchment'. Print Edition | Subscribe