More details have emerged of Singapore Press Holdings’ mass job cut exercise that has been ongoing full swing since yesterday.
While the job cuts are only expected to cease at the end of the year, it appears that some staff cuts are occurring at the local print conglomerate with immediate effect.
According to reports from sources like Yahoo News, it appears that 40 staff from the Straits Times and 17 staff from the Business Times have already been retrenched, with staff from Lianhe Zaobao and The New Paper also being affected, since the exercise began yesterday morning.
The staff that have been let go comprise of many new employees and veteran staff with decades-long service records alike, with several editorial staff and photographers being laid off. The decision to axe the jobs of junior employees has especially been noteworthy, since cost savings from their terminations is said to be arbitrary.
Nevertheless, termination notices are flying in the print giant’s Toa Payoh North headquarters, with staff members having little to no indication of whether they will survive in the company.
Sources say that some staff only came to know that they are being retrenched when they came into work yesterday and couldn’t log in to their work computer systems. They were later told that their job had been cut and that they would have to leave the premises by 6pm.
It is said that even the direct supervisors of axed staff have no say in termination decisions.
Interestingly, mass retrenchment is ongoing even as SPH’s full year net profit rose significantly from last year. While advertising revenue did decline by 16.9 percent year-on-year, or by S$103 million this financial year, SPH’s full year net profit still rose by 32 percent to S$350.1 million from the previous financial year.
The move, which effectively indicates that SPH has resorted to mass job cuts in a time of profit, has attracted scrutiny from socio-political commentators online.
Academic Derek da Cunha cut straight to the chase and said that it is not alternative sources of media that are a threat to the company but the decision to treat the government with “kid gloves” that are a problem to the print giant:
“SPH cutting head count to save costs is analogous to applying a plaster to a gaping wound. The main problem for the media segment of SPH is not simply alternative media but that the organization is held hostage to the politics of the ruling party.“I have already mentioned before that a number of respected newspapers around the world are surviving the challenge of alternative media to the extent that they have erected paywalls for their digital version.
“The best example of a storied newspaper thriving notwithstanding the challenges of alternative media and the sharp decline in advertising revenue for its print edition, is The New York Times. (See the attached report dated July 27, 2017.)“Trump’s victory in November last year powered a surge in paid subscriptions to the NYT. That has been a clear indication that people have a thirst for quality, investigative reporting and analysis and are willing to pay for it, notwithstanding heavy competition from social media. Quality, investigative reporting and analysis constitute the antidote to the proliferation of fake news in the social media age.
“As long as the SPH stable of newspapers keep treating the ruling party, and the wider Singapore Establishment, with kid gloves and not subject them to rigorous scrutiny and examination, the decline in SPH’s revenues in its media segment will likely continue unabated.
Meanwhile, former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng voiced out that he hopes SPH’s Chief Executive Officer, Ng Yat Chung, exhausted all options before turning to job cuts:
“It doesn’t take much imagination or skill to go into a company and start sacking people in order to reduce costs.
“Did previous CEOs not think about that ? Of course they must have.
“I do hope that the new SPH CEO has thought through all options before retrenching people. The people being let go are those least likely to be able to find another job, given their age and experience.
“Also, the unions need to speak up. And fight for the rank-and-file at SPH now fearing that their livelihoods will be forever destroyed.”
SPH has reportedly been offering market-rate retrenchment remuneration – one month salary for each year’s service, and an additional month of remuneration is added for each year above the age of 58 for senior employees.