News about Underwater World Singapore’s (UWS) impending closure was released a few days ago.
The once popular attraction opened its doors in 1991 is set to close for good on 26 June.
What this means is that their 70 staff will have to be retrenched. According to UWS, the affected staff will be compensated in accordance with Singapore’s Employment Act.
According to sources, the Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) is already in touch with its affected members.
Retrenchments are never a nice experience. In fact, it can be disruptive to one’s life – income, happiness, etc.
And in today’s economic backdrop, it may happen to anyone of us, at anytime.
What happens when you face one? What avenues do you have to get help?
If your company be unionised, like in the case of UWS, then there should be a Collective Agreement which includes a clause on retrenchment and the agreed terms and conditions for it.
The proper process when a company decides to retrench employees, is for the company to notify the union in writing 2 weeks before the retrenchment.
The usual practice for companies who are unionised, is to pay affected employees 1 month’s salary for each year of service.
Some companies do not have a collective agreement with a union, but a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed. These companies usually pay retrenched staff 2-4 weeks per year of service.
On the other hand for non-unionised companies, there is hardly any form of protection for workers when retrenchment hits.
For example, Double Negative, a visual effects production company recently ceased operations in Singapore and had to retrench its employees in three batches.
According to sources, the first batch to be retrenched had no notice period at all, meaning they had to pack up and leave the very same day of notice. And the retrenchment benefit was not according to industrial standards.
Many argue that there’s really no point in joining a union in Singapore. Some feel that the unions here are toothless.
But just put yourself in the shoes of the former employees in Double Negative and other instances of companies not having any union protection at all. They received almost nothing in terms of retrenchment benefit.
Compare that with UWS, which involves the union right from the start to offer outplacement services.
Of course, there’s more to what unions do than just fight for retrenchment benefits. They continue to be the voice for other benefits for their members.
The labour movement also continues to be the collective voice to advocate for better jobs and skills for workers in Singapore in preparation for a better tomorrow.