Pratt & Whitney lays off 20% of Singapore workforce due to COVID-19

Pratt & Whitney lays off 20% of Singapore workforce due to COVID-19

Pratt & Whitney Google Maps
A Pratt & Whitney facility at Seletar Aerospace View (Screengrab: Google Maps)

SINGAPORE: Aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney has laid off 20 per cent of its workforce in Singapore - making up about 400 of the more than 2,000 employees it has locally - the firm announced on Monday (Aug 3).

Pratt & Whitney said its four companies unionised under the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU) had informed SISEU of their intention to carry out a retrenchment exercise on Monday.

The four affected companies are Turbine Overhaul Services, Pratt & Whitney Component Solutions, P&W NGPF Manufacturing Company Singapore and Component Aerospace Singapore.

Those retrenched under an earlier exercise by Eagle Services Asia, a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and SIA Engineering, were among the 20 per cent of the workforce laid off.  

Pratt & Whitney said fewer local employees were affected by the exercise, with locals still making up more than 77 per cent of its headcount here after the retrenchments.

READ: Unions halt 'unfair' retrenchment by aerospace firm, industrial action averted

In a joint statement, SISEU and Pratt & Whitney said they were committed to ensuring that “due process is observed and affected employees are accorded fair treatment and compensation packages”.

The statement noted that the commercial aviation sector is currently expected to only return to pre-COVID-19 levels in 2023 at the earliest, although Pratt & Whitney said it hoped for an earlier recovery to allow employees to return to work if they wished to do so. 

“The prolonged recovery timeline for commercial aviation forced this difficult but necessary decision by Pratt & Whitney companies," said the statement.

The decision comes after the implementation of other cost-containment measures, including temporary salary reductions and shorter work weeks, cancellation of merit increases, hiring freezes and discretionary spending cuts, it added.

It noted that the four Pratt & Whitney companies had been working with SISEU and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on cost-cutting measures since April.

Retrenchment was taken "as a last resort", said the statement, and the retrenchment exercise was carried out in a “transparent, fair and responsible manner” under NTUC’s Fair Retrenchment Framework as well as the existing Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment.

SISEU has worked with the Employment and Employability Institute to arrange for affected employees to attend job fairs and employability workshops, and also requested the companies to provide those affected with a one-off training grant for skills upgrading. 

Affected workers who are union members will also have their membership paid for until the end of this year, to allow them to enjoy benefits such as union bursary awards, financial relief under NTUC care and support programmes and insurance coverage. 

Pratt & Whitney has operated in Singapore for 37 years, with staff members in the country having an average employment tenure of 14 years. 

READ: Commentary: Airline industry faces financial crisis with more bankruptcies looming

The aerospace industry, which employs more than 22,000 people in Singapore, has been feeling the knock-on effect from the impact of international travel restrictions. 

Among the companies which have retrenched workers in Singapore are giants such as Airbus and Rolls-Royce, which in July said it would cut about 240 jobs in Singapore -about 24 per cent of its local workforce - due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last month Pratt & Whitney joint venture Eagle Services Asia had its retrenchment plans halted after NTUC and three aerospace and aviation unions said the firm had not followed due process in letting go of its workers. 

Source: CNA/az(nc)

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