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DFS providing laid off workers with career coaching, counselling support

DFS said its staff working in the airport's liquor and tobacco concession operations were given formal notice of their termination of employment, which will take effect in June 2020.

TRAVEL retailer DFS Group said on Wednesday that it has in place a series of measures to assist employees affected by last week’s retrenchment exercise.

These measures are aligned with the advisory on managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment from tripartite partners – the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) – DFS said in a media statement.

To support affected staff in their transition over the next few months, the company is also working closely with the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation (TRREF), Workforce Singapore and external outplacement agencies.

Such support may include outplacement assistance with personalised one-on-one career coaching, job matching, career and job fairs, retraining and reskilling, employability skills workshops and counselling services, if required.

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“We made best efforts to communicate these face-to-face with affected staff today,” a DFS spokesman said on Wednesday.

Days earlier, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said that the retailer could have better handled its layoffs, particularly the way it communicated with its staff and how it offered severance packages.

DFS announced in August that it is quitting the duty-free liquor and tobacco business at Changi Airport, and will exit the operations in June 2020 to make way for a new operator.

On Wednesday, the spokesman said that employees at the T Galleria in Scottswalk and at DFS’s shared services centre in Chai Chee were affected by the retrenchment – some with immediate effect, while some exits will take effect over the next several months.

Meanwhile, airport staff working in the liquor and tobacco concession operations were given formal notice of their termination of employment, which will take effect in June 2020.

DFS said in its statement that the retrenchment exercise was a “difficult decision in response to a challenging travel retail environment, compounded by steep losses incurred by the liquor and tobacco concession operations at Changi Airport”.

In the past week, the company has increased its engagement and dialogue with MOM, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, and TRREF, to “leverage their deep expertise and counsel”, according to the statement.

“We remain committed to carrying out this exercise in a fair and sensitive manner,” the DFS spokesman said.

DFS has also received a letter from the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers’ Union, a general union affiliated to NTUC, dated Sept 25. The company did not disclose the contents of the letter.

“We look forward to further dialogues with the union and NTUC to promote good industrial relations for our mutual benefit and that of our staff,” the spokesman said.

In August, DFS had told The Business Times (BT) that some 500 people are directly employed at its liquor and tobacco concession operations, and that they would have the option of working with the new operator or with other operators in the airport, and some may also be deployed to other DFS locations in Singapore.

On Wednesday, DFS said it continues to employ almost 1,000 employees in Singapore.

The spokesman added that the group is committed to “being a business that thinks long term” and will continually evolve over the years to implement new processes and ways of working.