SINGAPORE: About 140 staff members from Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) media sales division and magazines will be "affected" by a retrenchment exercise, amid a restructuring to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on advertising revenue, the company said on Tuesday (Aug 18).
The affected employees make up about 5 per cent of the overall media group's headcount, SPH said in its media release, adding that retrenchment costs are expected to come up to about S$8 million.
In a corporate presentation on Tuesday, the firm said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a "significant adverse impact" across all business segments, with the economic downturn impacting advertising revenue.
SPH has exited its magazine business in Malaysia and has ceased the publication of magazines Cleo, Young Parents and Shape.
Newsroom staff and journalists are not affected by the restructuring exercise, the presentation said.
SPH's CEO Ng Yat Chung said: "Subscriptions and readership of our news titles have increased since the onset of COVID-19.
"However, the economic downturn has significantly impacted our advertising revenue. A more integrated approach of producing and selling our content across our various platforms will allow us to deal more efficiently and effectively with the new level of demand we are seeing from our advertisers and audience."
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The Ministry of Manpower, the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) have been informed of the restructuring exercise, said SPH.
"Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the union. SPH has also been working closely with the union and e2i to ensure that affected staff receive the help and support they require during this period," the firm said.
Mr David Teo, president of the CMPU, said the union has been working closely with SPH's management to ensure colleagues are "treated fairly".
“Today is a tough day for the employees affected by SPH’s restructuring exercise and our CMPU union leaders are giving them our strong support," he added.
"Amid the economic uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak and companies’ restructuring efforts to streamline operations, retrenchments may be inevitable."
He noted that the CMPU was notified by SPH's management in advance of the restructuring exercise, and will continue to engage SPH and NTUC's e2i to provide the "necessary support" for affected employees.
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"SPH has also intensified its efforts to share its content resources across its print, digital and voice platforms," the company added.
"The streamlining of operations for greater efficiency and synergy has led to the redundancy of some roles."
The firm said it has reviewed its costs, cut back on discretionary spending and instituted pay cuts for senior management. In March, SPH announced that its directors, including the CEO, and senior management, would take "voluntary pay cuts" of 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.
In a separate statement, Mr Teo said: "CMPU and SPH management jointly reviewed the selection criteria to ensure that the Singaporean core within the company is safeguarded as far as possible.
"The union also negotiated for a fair compensation package for affected employees."
He added that the union also worked with SPH management to ensure the restructuring exercise was conducted in line with guidelines stated in NTUC's Fair Retrenchment Framework, as well as the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment.
Union leaders and NTUC's e2i representatives will provide "support, advice and assistance to affected employees in the areas of employability training, career coaching and job placement", he said.
In April this year, SPH reported that operating revenue had dipped 1.3 per cent, or S$6.2 million, for the first half of FY2020 ending Feb 29, mainly due to lower newspaper print advertisement revenue.
The company said that media revenue had shrunk 14.3 per cent, or S$42.3 million, to S$253.9 million for the first half of the financial year, while newspaper print advertisement revenue fell 20.4 per cent.
"The 1HFY20’s results reflect the initial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the group’s business segments. In the media segment, advertising was affected across most sectors with the exception of government spending," SPH said in April.
In October last year, SPH announced it would cut 5 per cent of jobs in its media division as it sought to restructure and streamline its operations. About 130 employees were affected as a result of the restructuring, of whom about 70 were laid off.