Ground handling firm dnata retrenches Singapore employees due to COVID-19 disruption

Ground handling firm dnata retrenches Singapore employees due to COVID-19 disruption

Changi Airport 29
Changi Airport's Terminal 3's transit area during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: The COVID-19 crisis continues to hit the aviation sector, with ground handling company dnata being the latest to lay off employees.

Affected staff members were informed of their retrenchment on Friday (Aug 28).

In response to CNA's queries, dnata told CNA that it had to take steps to "right size" its business due to "unprecedented disruption" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The situation remains very fluid with unpredictable demand, schedule and capacity changes becoming the norm," said a dnata spokesperson. 

"Considering this operating environment, and like so many other organisations in Singapore that have been impacted, we’ve had to take steps to right size our business and ensure it is fit for purpose," he added.

“We have conducted thorough manpower assessments and have made very difficult, but necessary decisions to let some of our staff go."

Dnata declined to say how many people were retrenched, or what compensation was given to those affected. 

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In Singapore, dnata - a subsidiary of the Emirates Group - provides a variety of services including cargo handling, catering and security at Changi Airport.

According to its website, it employs more than 1,800 workers here.  

In letting go its workers, dnata said it worked closely with the union and government agencies to ensure compliance with the tripartite advisory on retrenchments, and to “provide all possible support to affected employees”.  

Dnata will have "a stronger Singaporean core" than before, it said.

"Prior to the exercise, 63 per cent of dnata Singapore’s workforce were Singaporeans. After the retrenchment, 73 per cent will be made up of Singaporeans," it added.

AFFECTED WORKERS TO GET HELP FINDING NEW JOB OPPORTUNITIES

The company said it has engaged the dnata Singapore Staff Union (DSSU) and e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) to share “curated job vacancies" and upcoming job fairs, as well as to facilitate individual career coaching sessions for affected employees.

"NTUC's e2i will engage with the affected workers to share on suitable job opportunities and provide access to resources such as career consultation and employability workshops if needed,” said e2i chief executive officer Gilbert Tan. 

Mr Tan, who is also NTUC assistant director-general, added that e2i strives to be “a step ahead to protect workers’ livelihoods" by matching them to the jobs gathered by the NTUC Job Security Council.

“To make this work, we urge companies to come forward, to work with us so that workers can find jobs prior to any retrenchment should it be unavoidable,” he added. 

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Having undertaken various measures to manage costs since the pandemic began, retrenchments were taken as a last resort by dnata, which had given DSSU advance notice of its plans, the union noted. 

It added that most of those affected are work permit holders, a third of whom are still in their home countries due to travel restrictions.

“Dnata Singapore has worked with DSSU to extend fair compensation terms and employment-related assistance to affected employees,” said a union spokesperson. 

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“It is a difficult time for all of us, especially for those working in the aviation and its supporting industries,” said DSSU president Sheikh Muhammed. 

“While efforts have been made to protect jobs and livelihoods, we understand that the company is facing extremely challenging times and has little choice but to right-size,” he added. 

“We stand in solidarity with our fellow workers and will do everything we can to help them during this difficult time.”

Commercial aviation has been badly hit by the coronavirus with Dubai-based Emirates, dnata's parent company, announcing in June that it was laying off an unspecified number of staff, including cabin crew and pilots.

Earlier this month, aerospace firm Pratt & Whitney announced it was retrenching about 20 per cent of its Singapore headcount, while national carrier Singapore Airlines offered cabin crew the option of early release or retirement as part of a host of cost-cutting measures.  

Source: CNA/az(gs)

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