Photo of Surbana Chairman from Nikkei Asia

Temasek Holdings-owned building consultancy firm Surbana Jurong was singled out for Parliament discussion yesterday (Feb 7) for lying about poor performance of their 54 retrenched workers. According to Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, he said he find it unacceptable for the company to retrench workers using “poor performance” as an excuse:

“The manner in which the infrastructure consultancy had laid off 54 workers, then criticised them in a strongly worded letter to staff and a statement to the media, was unacceptable. In all my years in the labour movement and Ministry of Manpower, (MOM), it was the first time I had seen such behaviour. I do not find it acceptable… I hope we will not come across another case where a company has a major termination and labels the employees as poor performers publicly.”

Minister Lim Swe Say also faulted the company if their employees are found to perform below-par:

“Employers may have a part to play when employees are not up to the mark. “Yes, it may be poor performance in one organisation. But it does not mean a person cannot do well in other places.”

Minister Lim Swee Say also said that Surbana Jurong have infringed employment law, but stopped short of saying he will prosecute them and what the penalties will be:

“Employers must be able to substantiate their claim of poor performance. They should use relevant and objective criteria, which all employees must know of, and must also keep records of performance. Termination is unlawful if an employer is unable to show documented evidence. The employer may be ordered to reinstate the employee, or to provide compensation.”

Surbana Jurong responded with a media statement saying that the matter has been resolved and refusing to comment further on their termination practices:

“We have resolved the matter fairly and amicably with the unions. We are currently reviewing our performance management processes to improve the system, including communicating with our employees more frequently.”