The circumstances leading up to the recent termination of dozens of Surbana Jurong workers are dubious and should be the subject of investigations by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). There are two areas that the MOM must look into:
One, Surbana’s management says that the employees were terminated because of poor performance. The Online Citizen and Straits Times reported that those terminated were given two letters: one a resignation letter and the other a termination of which they had to choose one.
However, here have been concerns expressed that the company has resorted to the use of termination to avoid paying retrenchment benefits to the workers even though the Surbana management has denied this.
Two, Surbana has also said that the workers were terminated because of poor work performance. If this is the case, were those affected given warnings? If not, were they given a chance to appeal?
The fact that Surbana is owned by Temasek Holdings makes all the more important that the authorities look into these matters.
There is, however, the problem of conflict of interest. As Temasek Holdings is owned by the government through the Ministry of Finance, it makes it difficult, if at all possible, to adjudicate the matter in a disinterested manner. This is a prime example of why a government should not be directly involved in the commercial sector.
Singaporeans should be keenly watching this case to ensure that the government upholds the rights of workers. This is because retrenchments will increase in the foreseeable future as the economy continues to deteriorate.
To prevent employers from exploiting employees, the government must make it clear that it will not tolerate termination as a guise for the avoidance of retrenchment payments.
The SDP stands with the terminated workers of Surbana who seek answers from the management. If wrong has been committed, the authorities must hold accountable those responsible and put matters right.