Not Cool SPH, Not Cool…

Not cool indeed.

Last week, there were some talk about staff layoffs within SPH .  Somehow, it apparently assured the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU) that it was speculative reporting.


Then yesterday (17 October 2016), the management of SPH only told CMPU of their plan to reduce manpower by up to 10%, half an hour before it was to be announced at a townhall session with its employees.

SPH confirmed plans to cut its headcount of 4,182 by up to 10% over the next two years. This will be done through attrition, retirement, non-renewal of contracts, outplacement and retrenchment.

Ironically, the Straits Times didn’t even report on the statement which the union released to the media. So, we do you a favour and reproduce the statement by CMPU President David Teo in full here:

“The Creative Media and Publishing Union was informed by Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) management of their plan to reduce manpower by up to 10 percent over the next two years, during a meeting with the management before SPH’s townhall session with its employees. We are also deeply concerned that union was informed about the impending retrenchments and rightsizing only half an hour before the townhall meeting.

We will be working closely with the management to work out fair retrenchment package for our members and ensure that SPH practices responsible retrenchment by giving suitable notice period to affected workers. And more importantly, we are open to work with the management to explore other ways to reduce cost, or explore redeployment of affected staff to other areas of work.

Responsible managements should consider and explore all alternative ways of managing their manpower where possible before cutting existing manpower. The union will also help all affected members tide over this difficult time by rendering assistance in all ways that we can offer, such as job placement, career coaching, training to take on new jobs and coping with possible financial difficulties.”

Of course, the union had to state its concerns regarding the timing of the announcement (half an hour before the townhall meeting).

Let’s hope the union’s help doesn’t get turned down by the management.

It’s not the only case in recent weeks that a company went ahead to take action on its staff without the prior knowledge of the union.

Some weeks back, news about SMRT’s sacking of two employees who were involved in a fatal track accident in March 2016 was all over the news.

SMRT Accident

This was also done without informing the union beforehand. In fact, prior to the sacking, the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) had written to SMRT to withhold any actions against the affected workers until completion of official investigations.

This ding-donged for a while with the union filing an appeal and Labour Chief Chan Chun Sing having to step in to say something before the company decided to convene a panel to review the appeal.


Sadly, there are companies who don’t play by the rules.

There are proper processes for companies to retrench or terminate the employment of workers and clearly, the way both SMRT and SPH did it, is not the way.

The Tripartite partners released guidelines on managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment which state state that employers should consult with the union if the company is unionised before they retrench as well as considering alternative work arrangements amongst other guidelines.

Open and direct communication is the basic foundation of every employer-employee relations. So if SPH and SMRT can’t even keep the line of communication open, how would it expect its workplace to be a positive one?

Even if employees know about the companies financial and business standing but continue to have trust in the company because of open communication from the top, it would have been a positive working environment.

But now, with the company only giving 30 mins prior notice to the union that it intends to downsize or right-size headcount in the company, how is that a positive working environment for workers?

It seems a little contradictory to one of its core value of teamwork doesn’t it?





  1. It’s not illegal in Singapore for companies to inform unions 30min before they take action. In fact there is no legislation or law for companies to even inform unions before they take action on staff. That’s why SMRT is not in any wrong in the eyes of S’pore law. PAP politicians stepped in only because it went viral on social media & threatened a populist backlash if the govt is seen as not doing anything about it. In the 1990s or even 2000s this sacking would have been a non-issue and 99.99% of Sinkies won’t care.

    And regarding those SPH journalists, most are not union members as they are considered executives with salary over $2.5K — there is minimal or zero extra benefits for these group of staff to pay monthly fees to join the union. Hence SPH can always say that they didn’t need to bend over backwards to handhold the union since they’re dealing mostly with non-union staff. Anyway informing the union 30min beforehand can be considered as “consulted” the union, since there is no legal definition as to what “consult” really means.

    Tripartite guidelines are exactly that — just guidelines, not law.

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