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US engine maker Pratt & Whitney trims about 20% of Singapore headcount

P&W NFPG Manufacturing Company Singapore - Google Maps.JPG
P&W companies that are unionised under SISEU include Turbine Overhaul Services, Pratt & Whitney Component Solutions, P&W NFPG Manufacturing Company Singapore (pictured), and Component Aerospace Singapore.

AMERICAN aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney (P&W) on Monday announced it will carry out a retrenchment exercise on the same day in Singapore.

This round of layoffs will be undertaken at most P&W sites across the country, and was "openly communicated in advance with employees", the company said in a joint statement with the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union (SISEU).

The current headcount will shrink by less than 20 per cent, affecting more foreigners than locals, P&W said, without disclosing specific numbers. The "Singapore core" will thus continue to form more than 77 per cent of the workforce after the exercise.

P&W said in the joint statement that the group employs more than 2,000 staff with an average employment tenure of 14 years.

Companies under the P&W group that are unionised under SISEU include Turbine Overhaul Services, Pratt & Whitney Component Solutions, P&W NFPG Manufacturing Company Singapore, and Component Aerospace Singapore.

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This retrenchment exercise is separate from the one previously reported at P&W's majority-owned joint venture with SIA Engineering, Eagle Services Asia, although the under 20 per cent figure includes Eagle's axed workers.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and three other unions last week publicly censured the "unfair" layoffs at Eagle, as the latter was said to have prematurely informed 144 employees on July 22 and 24 that they may be retrenched, even though negotiations were still ongoing with the Air Transport Executive Staff Union, the SIA Engineering Company Engineers and Executives Union, and the Singapore Airlines Staff Union. Eagle is a unionised company under these three unions representing different groups of employees, including administrative officers, engineers and technicians.

NTUC said on July 30 that prior to the negotiations with Eagle, 56 per cent of the 144 affected workers there were Singaporeans. This proportion was adjusted to 44 per cent after the talks, while that of foreign workers affected rose to 56 per cent.

The absolute number of staff to be retrenched at Eagle was not disclosed at the time, although Eagle employs about 800 workers.

On Monday, P&W said that its group of companies had notified the SISEU in early July of their intention to carry out a retrenchment exercise.

SISEU's priority in the immediate term is to work closely with the P&W companies to ensure the staff who are retrenched receive the necessary assistance and support.

The union and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute will also arrange for the affected employees to attend job fairs and employability workshops.

SISEU had requested that the companies provide the retrenched workers with a one-off training grant, on top of the retrenchment packages. The P&W group will continue to support course-related expenses for all affected employees on its Employee Scholar Program for 12 months after their departure.

Further, affected employees who are union members will receive paid NTUC union membership till the end of 2020, so that they can continue to access membership benefits such as union bursary awards, financial relief under NTUC care and support programmes, insurance coverage as well as personal development and training assistance. 

The retrenchment exercise was a "difficult but necessary decision" that was "forced" by the prolonged recovery timeline for commercial aviation, P&W said.

It added that it hopes commercial aviation traffic will recover to pre-pandemic levels "sooner" - compared to industry forecasts that this will take until 2023 at the earliest - so that employees who are keen to return to the group can do so.

P&W also said the layoffs were a last resort, after it had implemented other cost-containment measures such as temporary pay cuts and shorter work weeks, cancellation of merit increases, hiring freezes, and discretionary spending cuts.

It has been working with SISEU and NTUC since early April on such cost measures.

P&W called its employees "unsung heroes" who service and safeguard its engines to ensure aircraft can return to the skies as the sector recovers, noting that its companies "remain committed" to their staff.

The group has been operating in Singapore for more than 37 years.

READ MORE: NTUC, 3 affiliated unions slam 'unfair' layoffs at P&W-SIA Engineering joint venture

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