Unionists speak out against sacking of Surbana Jurong employees

SINGAPORE - The way 54 Surbana Jurong employees were sacked has left unionists surprised and aggrieved, with some saying that due process was not followed for those who are union members.

In a Facebook post on Friday (Jan 20), Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union (Batu) president Nasordin Mohd Hashim wrote: "Usually, before a union member is terminated, the details of the case would be officially given to the union to ensure our members will be given fair treatment and that due process is followed."

But he said that "this was not observed" in the Surbana case, adding that 18 of the 54 workers were union members.

His post was shared by National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari.

The posts came after reports of a strongly-worded e-mail seen by The Straits Times on Wednesday, in which Surbana Jurong group chief executive Wong Heang Fine told staff that the group cannot allow a small proportion of poor performers to be a drag on the rest of the organisation.

That was why the infrastructure consultancy terminated the employment of a group of workers in Singapore over the previous two weeks.

The 54 employees represented 0.41 per cent of Surbana Jurong's global workforce and 0.79 per cent of its Singapore staff.

But Mr Nasordin said in his Facebook post that eight of its union members involved were staff who were offered re-employment or had their contract renewed.

He asked: "Why did the company offer them re-employment or renew their contract if their performance was not satisfactory to begin with? Why did the company not allow these long serving staff to see out their contracts?"

He added that some of them had cleared their performance review in July but were still "managed out", making it unsurprising that the public might think the company "is avoiding compensating the workers".

"The timing of the termination leaves much to be desired," he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union general secretary Philip Lee also said on Facebook that it is "common practice to give warning as an initial step" before terminating employment.

There should also be feedback and opportunity for employees to improve, he wrote on Friday, where he questioned if the workers were given a chance to appeal.

"To sack them just before (the Chinese New Year) is heartless to the extreme,"he said.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had said earlier that it is currently looking into the termination of employment involving employees under the Surbana Group of companies.

MOM added that 18 employees have been referred to it by the unions and the ministry is providing assistance to them.