Suntec Singapore cuts 85 jobs as Covid-19 takes toll on MICE industry

SUNTEC Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre is cutting its workforce and renewing its business strategy in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry, Suntec Singapore and the Building Construction And Timber Industries Employees' Union (Batu) said in a joint statement on Thursday.

A one-off retrenchment exercise will cut 85 roles in areas including sales, operations and support functions such as finance and human resources. The affected workers comprise 60 local and 25 non-local staff.

Suntec Singapore now has 149 local and 29 non-local employees. After the exercise, it will have 89 local and four non-local employees.

MICE events have been suspended since April because of the pandemic. From early February, Suntec Singapore began working with Batu on cost control measures, including hiring freezes, internal and external redeployment, and temporary salary reductions in the form of unpaid leave, "with management leading the way by taking up to 40 percent in pay cuts".

The retrenchment exercise was decided upon, given "uncertainty on when the situation could improve and after considerable deliberation and review between Suntec Singapore and Batu".

Affected and eligible employees will get a month's salary for every year of service as severance payment, in line with the collective agreement.

Eligible staff will be paid their pro-rated annual wage supplement for the year, and be allowed to encash their remaining annual leave entitlements. All affected staff will be allowed to use their notice period to plan for their future, for instance by attending job fairs, interviews and training.

Suntec Singapore chief executive officer Arun Madhok said: "This decision was not taken lightly and does not in any way reflect the performance of any staff. Every individual in our team has contributed to the success of our company for many years, and I am truly sorry to have to ask many of our wonderful and talented people to look for alternative employment."

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Job Security Council will help to match local staff to job openings. At least two job opportunities have been identified for each affected local worker.

Together with NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute, Batu will arrange for affected staff to attend job fairs and employability workshops, and offer further assistance with job applications and counselling where necessary.

Suntec Singapore will give a one-off training grant of S$25,000 to Batu to support union members being trained for new jobs.

The exercise was considered in close consultation with Batu and in compliance with the NTUC Fair Retrenchment Framework, tripartite advisories and the collective agreement with Batu.

Batu executive secretary Zainal Sapari said: "For the past few months, Batu has been working very closely with Suntec Singapore to explore ways to help the business while protecting jobs.

"We are deeply appreciative to be able to maintain an honest and transparent discussion with Suntec from the start, especially so when the company has to inevitably conduct a retrenchment while keeping Batu in close consultation throughout."