SPH on retrenchment – machiam flipping roti prata…

I don’t think highly of SPH. I think its quality is quite poor. Apparently, I’m not the only one. The poor quality of the press has hurt its earnings and revenue. Its net profit and revenue both fell this year. There were reports that SPH would take a series of actions to turn around this sad state of affairs. These included cutting 5% to 10% of its workforce.

Initially, when SPH was questioned by other news outlets (e.g. Yahoo), it said that they “do not comment on speculations”. The union representing workers from SPH, the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU),  were understandably concerned by those reports. Mindy Kwok, the General Secretary of the CMPU told Yahoo News:

“When we (CMPU) saw the online news (about the planned restructuring), we immediately engaged the management to seek clarifications. The management shared that it was speculative reporting and gave assurance that they will work closely with the union if there are indeed such plans.”

Guess what, those “speculative reporting” turned out to be true. But between the initial reports and its own announcements, there was silence from SPH. Which is really strange. Their staff morale would probably be affected the moment the initial reports were released. But SPH chose not to do anything. It’s not as if they don’t have any channels of their own to get their side of the story heard. After all, they are a media platform!

Why this cloak of secrecy? Don’t know. Even the CMPU only found out that that there will indeed be manpower cuts in SPH a mere 30 minutes before the actual announcement. Instead of giving the CMPU a more time, working together with the CMPU to assure the staff, it seems that the SPH management doesn’t see the CMPU as partners. It’s no wonder that the CMPU is expressed that it was “deeply concerned” that they were only informed 30 minutes before SPH made the announcement.

Mr David Teo, the president of CMPU, reminded SPH that:

“Responsible managements should consider and explore all alternative ways of managing their manpower where possible before cutting existing manpower”

I have no doubt that the CMPU will do their best to work with SPH management to work out fair retrenchment packages for its members. But I am not that hopeful that SPH management will be that cooperative. SPH was even too cowardly to publish the statements by CMPU! And SPH doesn’t exactly have a history of being friendly and open to working with the unions.

The last great strike in Singapore was by the journalists and printers of Straits Times. A total of 900 of them went on strike to demand for higher bonuses, mutual respect between management, workers and union, and dialogue between management and staff. As a result of the strike, the Straits Times wasn’t printed for seven days.

Let’s hope that SPH remembers this period of history and don’t let it repeat. Because I don’t think Singaporeans will really be that negatively affected if SPH papers don’t get printed for seven days. The people who will be hurt most will be SPH themselves. Let’s hope CMPU and SPH management can work something out to the greatest benefit of the affected workers.

[Featured image from Desmond Foo via ST]

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