US aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney lays off around 400 Singapore staff

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Aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney laid off around 400 workers at five of its six facilities here yesterday amid the pandemic-induced downturn in the aviation industry.

The layoffs comprise 20 per cent of its local workforce. This includes more than 140 workers in maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Eagle Services Asia, a joint venture with SIA Engineering, who will be retrenched, as reported last week.

Pratt & Whitney employs over 2,000 workers here with an average employment tenure of 14 years. It noted that Singaporeans and permanent residents will still form about 77 per cent of its workforce after the retrenchments.

The American company, which has been operating here for around 37 years, worked with the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union (SISEU) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) from April on cost-cutting steps to protect jobs.

These included temporary salary reductions and shorter work weeks, cancellation of merit increases, hiring freezes and discretionary spending cuts.

Retrenchment was "taken as a last resort", said the company in a joint statement with the union. Those affected included technicians, engineers and managers.

The aviation industry has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with global air travel crippled by border closures and airlines scrapping plane orders.

It has been forecast that it could take until 2023 at the earliest for commercial aviation traffic to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels, forcing "this difficult but necessary decision", said the statement.

The SISEU went through several rounds of discussions with the company to reduce the number of workers on the name list and ensure the Singapore core is kept. Both parties said they will ensure affected employees are accorded fair treatment and compensation packages, which includes one month's pay for each year of service, capped at 25 years.