Double Negative’s sudden closure and what it means for Singaporeans

TL;DR – Double negative does not a positive story make.

Heard of Double Negative (Dneg)?

Maybe you haven’t. But you would have caught or at least heard about the following movies…

interstellar-poster

The-Hunger-Games-Mockingjay-Part-2-Poster

tom-cruise-mission-impossible-5-rogue-nation-2015-bmw-s1000rr-motorbike-wallpaper

Well, Dneg one of the world’s largest providers of visual effects for film and these movies are just some of their recent works.

The company has facilities in London, Mumbai and Vancouver and until recently, Singapore too. Why do I say until recently? Cause the Singapore facility that was established since 2009 was closed just recently in May 2016. The closure will inevitably result in the redundancy of the majority of the staff in this country.

Now, retrenchment is a story that is close to my heart.

You see, back in 2009 when hard disk maker Seagate decided to shut down its Singapore plant, my uncle was one of the 2,000 staff laid off. Then in his 40s, re-employment wasn’t the easiest thing – I mean, it’s not like he can easily flip through ST Classifieds, go for an interview the next day and be happily employed the day after. I saw first hand how he and his family went through some pretty tough times before he eventually became a taxi driver.

In the case of Dneg, staff were let go in three batches – the first batch had no notice at all, they were notified and let go that very same day. As for retrenchment payout, they were only given notice pay and one week ex-gratia.

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What does this mean?

Because the notice period stated in these Dneg staff’s appointment letters is only a week, this basically means that the staff ended up getting only one week’s pay in lieu of notice and one more week of payout.

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Because the company is not unionised here and also no MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed, staff were not protected with the “norm”.

What’s the “norm” then?

Some weeks back, the Tripartite Partners released its revised Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower which encourages companies to take a long term view of their manpower needs and if inevitable, implement their retrenchment exercise in a responsible and sensitive manner.

So what’s the norm? According to the tripartite guidelines set out by the Government (via MOM), the Singapore National Employers’ Federation (SNEF) and NTUC, the quantum of retrenchment benefit depends on what is provided for in the collective agreement (if the company is unionised) or contract of service as seen below.

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For unionised companies, we are talking about one month’s pay for each year of service, and for non-unionised companies with MOU signed, they pay 2-4 weeks for each year of service.

My heart goes out to the Dneg staff retrenched. There were those in the first batch of retrenchment who were not even given notice and were let go on the same day. Not everybody can suddenly lose his/her job overnight especially since the bills still have to be paid, you know? 

There’s a sorta silver lining though…

The last I heard, the Labour Movement went in to offer assistance. (Technically they didn’t have to since the company wasn’t unionised…) As the job nature of the staff (or rather, ex-staff) at Dneg falls under the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU) and the Singapore Union of Broadcasting Employees (SUBE), they got down to work to see what vacancies are available amongst the unionised companies under those two unions, and they also tried to work with WDA with job-matching for the retrenched staff.

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Well, it IS a sad fact that no job in the world is 100% safe, but there would have been a more positive ending of sorts if the company was unionised.

Related links
MOM on Retrenchment
Dneg: Layoffs and the zero sum game we play
Why would I pay $9 for union membership



Author: Flora Lim

Instagram addict, military wife and chocoholic down with a serious case of wanderlust, Flora spends 97% of her time building her business and the other 3% on her blog floraisabelle.com


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