These Facts about Surbana Jurong’s Sacking Might Make You Rethink Everything

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you would have known this piece of news that has made headlines for days: amidst the bad economy, Surbana Jurong, a merged company between Surbana International Consultant and Jurong International Holding, shocked Singapore when it made known that 54 of its workers have been sacked.

Netizens were sceptical, but the company reiterated that it was not a retrenchment exercise, and the workers were fired due to their poor performance.

Now, that’s how the story would have ended, but it didn’t.

In The Business Times article, some of the fired employees spoke to the newspaper anonymously. One senior ex-employer said that the HR team allegedly asked the department heads to submit a list of people to consider for “release”, which turned out to be more than 200 names.

Another sacked employee allegedly mentioned that during his recent performance appraisal, he met his targets.

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It’s no wonder people are angry.

Unionists then stood up for the sacked employees, both openly and behind the scenes. In a Facebook post, Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (Batu) president Nasordin Mohd Hashim wrote a lengthy post: he was surprised at the decision made, because 18 of the 54 sacked employees were members of the union, before any termination, the company would usually provide details to the union. This wasn’t done, and he felt that the workers weren’t treated fairly.

Image: Facebook (BATU-Building Construction And Timber Industries Employees’ Union)

The Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU) and the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union, both affiliated to National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), met initially but ended up in a deadlock, so the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was called in to assist.

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Finally, after a series of “fighting” by the unions (or to be more specific, a new meeting between the unions and the management of Surbana Jurong), Surbana Jurong admitted that the sacking “could have been better managed”, and they’re working closely with the unions to provide an “equitable and mutually agreeable arrangement” for the fired workers and to help them find new jobs.

Of course, the first lesson here is simple: unions are out there to fight an invisible battle for you, so it’s essential that you join one as you never know whether you’ll be the next “Surbana Jurong fired employee”.

Secondly, here’s the thing we can learn: what exactly caused the “sacking”?

While the unions have assisted the workers, Surbana Jurong has already fired the shot—meaning to say, the unions removed the bullets from the employees, but in the first place, why had the company fired the shots?

Termination of an employee isn’t like what you see in movies or TV shows. Before terminating one due to poor performance, the manager should take corrective actions, helping the employee improve. This isn’t a one-day process, but a relatively long one. Everything must be done without bias. Which is why I’m extremely curious: how did all 54 employees got fired at the same time? It’s like 54 people joining a company on the same day (which…well, well, well…).

A union like the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union helps such employees to prevent errant employers who like to suka suka change the playing field, because let’s face it: we all have seen many of these employers, haven’t we?

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Now, if there’re two things to learn from this episode, here’re the two: firstly, join a union (any union related to your industry) so that they can be the unsung warriors for you, and second, remember this: termination of employees isn’t a one-hour decision.

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