Singapore Press Holdings retrenches 140 media sales, magazine staff

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SPH Magazines to reduce workforce by 20 per cent

SINGAPORE — Some 140 media solutions and magazines staff from Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) have been laid off, amounting to about five per cent of the media giant’s headcount.

In a statement on Tuesday (18 August), SPH said the move is part of its media transformation roadmap, even as its already weakened advertising revenue felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The retrenchment exercise, involving personnel from the Media Solutions Division (MSD) and SPH Magazines, will cost approximately $8 million. Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the union.

According to sources, staff were informed of the move via a virtual town hall on Tuesday evening with chief commercial officer Ignatius Low.

SPH has intensified its efforts to share content resources across its print, digital and voice platforms, and the streamlining of operations for greater efficiency and synergy has led to the redundancy of some roles, said the statement.

Chief executive Ng Yat Chung noted that while subscriptions and readership of its news titles have increased since the onset of COVID-19, the economic downturn has significantly impacted advertising revenue.

Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU) president David Teo said that amid the economic uncertainties brought about by COVID-19 and companies’ restructuring efforts to streamline operations, retrenchments may be inevitable. CMPU was notified by management in advance of the restructuring exercise, he added.

In March 2020, SPH announced that its directors, including Ng, and senior management would take voluntary pay cuts of 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

This is the media conglomerate’s third round of layoffs since 2017, when former Chief of Defence Force and Neptune Orient Lines CEO Ng Yat Chung was appointed as chief executive. One month after his appointment, Ng brought forward the retrenchment of some 230 employees.

He said at the time, “We have decided as a leadership team, rather than drag this process over two years, let’s get it done…Chang tong bu ru duan tong (let’s not prolong the pain). Get this unpleasantness behind us and hopefully, we won’t have to touch this topic again for a long time.”

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