SINGAPORE: Former employees from bike-sharing company Ofo, who had their contracts terminated this week, said that the firm’s operations have “practically ceased” in Singapore as there were no personnel left.
The ex-employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Ofo terminated around 10 members of staff from the operations division on Thursday (Jan 31), and there were no officials left to move and maintain its fleet of bicycles on the streets.
The contracts of hundreds of Ofo Singapore employees were also terminated in November, Channel NewsAsia had earlier reported.
A senior member of Ofo’s operations team, said that the team was instructed to stop recovering bicycles parked indiscriminately on the final three days of their employment this week.
“Moving forward, any requests from the government to move the bicycles will not be attended to. There are no more Ofo officials in Singapore. They are all in China. The company has practically ceased its operations in Singapore,” he said.
The employees who were sacked received a call from Ofo’s acting general manager Jack Zhou last Monday. Mr Zhou, who is based in China, informed them that their contracts would end by Thursday and that they would be paid for their work in January.
Another employee who was retrenched told Channel NewsAsia that during his final days of employment, Ofo had instructed him to stop responding to customer queries on the firm's app and social media accounts.
"We had a lot of complaints from customers about malfunctioning bicycles and some requesting a refund for their subscription fees. We felt bad but we were specifically instructed to ignore these," he added.
NO NOTICE TO SURRENDER LICENCE: LTA
Responding to Channel NewsAsia, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) confirmed on Friday that it had not received any notice from Ofo that it intends to surrender its operating licence.
LTA added that it is in touch with Ofo on its compliance with all regulatory requirements, and it will continue to monitor the company’s ability to meet the demands.
In January, LTA announced that Ofo had breached multiple rules, despite being given "an ample preparation period" for compliance. For instance, the company did not reduce its bicycle fleet to the stipulated maximum fleet size of 10,000, despite multiple warnings and regulatory action taken against them.
In its reply, LTA reiterated that it intends to suspend Ofo’s licence if the company fails to meet regulatory requirements by Feb 13.
In December, Ofo's chief executive Dai Wei said the Chinese bike-sharing start-up was battling “immense” cash flow problems and disbanding the firm has been considered as an option.
Dai has also been added to China's social credit blacklist, which bars him from buying property or going on vacation.
NO COMPENSATION FOR SACKED EMPLOYEES
Another former employee, who was in the Ofo Singapore operations team for slightly more than a year and was let go on Thursday, said he was surprised by how the company did not offer him and his colleagues the one-month compensation they were due based on the terms of their employment contract.
However, he did not press Ofo’s management for it because he was afraid the company would withhold their salaries for the month of January if they raised any objections.
“It dawned on us that if we don’t accept the mutual termination of the contract with no other clauses, we might not be able to get our salary for January. And this is not something the team wants, especially with Chinese New Year coming,” he said.
“We don’t have a choice, we just want to bring home the bacon."
A fourth employee who was sacked told Channel NewsAsia that the manner in which they were informed of the termination was “unprofessional and rude”.
“There was no document to explain the terms of the termination, no discussion with human resources to explain why there was no compensation. It was a take-it-or-leave-it offer,” he said.
In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, a Ministry of Manpower spokesperson from the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation, urged the Ofo employees affected to approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) for assistance “early” to help resolve their compensation woes.
“For employees who are retrenched, Workforce Singapore and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) will offer employment assistance services, such as career coaching and job matching, through the Adapt and Grow initiative,” the spokesperson said.
Additionally, the spokesperson also urged employers to communicate any intention for retrenchment “early and before public notice” is made.
Channel NewsAsia has reached out to Ofo Singapore and its acting general manager Jack Zhou for clarification on the company’s operational status in Singapore and on claims that it owes its former staff compensation.