SPH employees’ union told of job cuts only 30 minutes before staff announcement

The union representing Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) employees said Monday (17 October) it was “deeply concerned” that it was only informed by management of planned job cuts just 30 minutes before SPH was scheduled to announce the move to its staff.

The Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU), which represents workers including those from SPH, told Yahoo Singapore that it would be working closely with SPH management to work out fair retrenchment packages for its members.

“Responsible managements should consider and explore all alternative ways of managing their manpower where possible before cutting existing manpower,” said CMPU president David Teo.  

Last Friday (14 October), in response to reports that SPH planned to cut its workforce by 10 per cent, CMPU told Yahoo Singapore that it had been assured by SPH management that it was “speculative reporting”.

CMPU General Secretary, Mindy Kwok said then, “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.”

SPH announcement on job cuts

On Monday, SPH confirmed plans to cut its workforce by up to 10 per cent by 2018 and merge tabloids My Paper (MYP) and The New Paper (TNP).

The two papers will form a revamped TNP that will be distributed free Monday to Saturday from December and will continue to be available online, SPH said in a statement.

To reduce operating costs, SPH will downsize its workforce of 4,182 – as of end August - through attrition, retirement, non-renewal of contracts, outplacement and retrenchment.

The measures come after a five-month review of its core media business. On Friday, SPH reported a 17.5 per cent drop in net profit to $265.3 million for its 2016 financial year amid a continued slowdown in the conglomerate’s core media business.

The media conglomerate pledged to work with the relevant unions to ensure that fair terms are given to affected staff.

Senior management including SPH CEO Alan Chan and his deputy Patrick Daniel announced the measures to employees during a town hall meeting at a packed SPH News Centre Auditorium on Monday evening. Many staffers stood in the wings, while others crowded around televisions in conference rooms and other venues in the SPH building to catch the live broadcast of the session.

Sources across several departments in SPH said that the mood in the auditorium was pensive during the approximately 90-minute session, where management outlined its plans to staff.

One employee said that a total of 30 staff will be laid off in the initial phase, with the rest of the job cuts coming in the next two years.

Questions asked by employees included the link between profit performance and job cuts in the different business units, and whether the new TNP would cannibalise The Straits Times.

Reactions from SPH employees

SPH staff whom Yahoo Singapore spoke to seemed reconciled to the restructuring plans.

“It’s clear that the media business in Singapore, especially in print, has been hit in a bad way, even if SPH had been ignoring it for a long time. Reactions (by SPH) now seem knee-jerk in nature, but the only heartening thing to hear is that retrenchments are being kept at a minimum for now. But it doesn’t mean all our jobs are safe for long,” said one employee.

Another staffer also described the mood in her department as “resigned”,  as many had anticipated the measures.

One employee said, “The mood seemed to be one of acceptance, because for one, it’s no secret that print media is facing a crisis the world over.  

“While the management did try to inject some positive vibes into the presentation, it seems clear that this move (merger between TNP and MYP) is a bit of a wild stab in the dark - a gamble.”