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Exclusive: Ofo Singapore lays off its operations team without compensation

SINGAPORE — Embattled bike-sharing firm Ofo has laid off its operations team just days before the Chinese New Year holidays, with the sudden move coming more than a month after TODAY reported that the China-based company owed at least S$700,000 to its creditors.

SINGAPORE — Embattled bike-sharing firm Ofo has laid off its operations team just days before the Chinese New Year holidays, with the sudden move coming more than a month after TODAY reported that the China-based company owed at least S$700,000 to its creditors.

Since the start of this week, about nine or 10 employees were told individually over the phone that Thursday (Jan 31) would be their last day of work.

They were not given any reasons for their termination and were not offered the one-month compensation they are supposed to receive based on the terms of their employment contract.

However, they would be paid their salary for January.

The employees spoke to TODAY on the condition of anonymity.

One of them, who has worked for more than a year with Ofo, said that he received a call from acting general manager Jack Zhou three days ago.

“(Mr Zhou) spoke to us individually. On my side, I agreed to just end on Jan 31. The date was given by him… There was no specific details given to us, no actual notice,” he said.

“I’m a Chinese. And Chinese New Year is so near, I’m not happy about it.”

He is also upset that the company is not paying them compensation, especially since they were not given the one-month notice period before being terminated.

However, he did not see any point in arguing with Mr Zhou and accepted the agreement, he said.

“For the past two months, the news is all very negative. I’m also looking for another job. It’s time to just leave, no point holding on. I don’t see any progression… Even if I don’t agree to it, I don’t know whether there is anything for us to do or if we will be paid in February,” he added.

Another staff member, who has also been with the firm for more than a year, said that he received a call from Mr Zhou two days ago, and was told not to return to work after Jan 31.

While he said that the lack of compensation is “unfair”, he was more sanguine about his situation and said that such incidents “happen in a start-up”.

“Of course, everybody is affected when a company dies. But I choose not to be affected. I don’t have a choice… just have to move on,” he added.

Ofo’s staff members also told TODAY that they were not informed of the reasons for their termination.

“Whether Ofo remains in Singapore or Ofo is revamping or moving out — nothing mentioned,” one of them said.

TODAY has reached out to Mr Zhou and Ofo’s public relations team in Beijing for their comments on the termination of their employees in Singapore and them not receiving compensation.

Commenting on the lack of compensation, the Ministry of Manpower urged Ofo employees to approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management to get help for claims.

It also said that employers should communicate earlier to staff members any intentions for retrenchments and before the public notice of retrenchment is given.

Slightly over a month ago, TODAY reported that employees here are owed thousands of dollars in unpaid transport and mobile phone claims accumulated over more than six months.

The bike-sharing firm also owed at least two vendors here unpaid sums totalling more than S$700,000 for logistic services.

One of the vendors is logistics company SB Express, which is owed up to S$600,000 for providing more than 10 lorries to Ofo from May to November last year to transport the bicycles.

With signs pointing to a possible exit from Singapore, its managing director Sebastian Lee said he is prepared that he will never get the money back.

He said on Thursday: “We have to move forward. The earth is still spinning. Hopefully, no other company will be hurt like (us) again.”

Responding to queries from TODAY, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that it has not received notice from Ofo that it intends to surrender its licence.

LTA added that Ofo is still responsible for complying with all regulatory requirements and that it is in touch with the company.  

Two weeks ago, LTA issued an ultimatum to Ofo, warning the firm to cut down its fleet to the maximum size of 10,000 and set up a QR-code parking system by Feb 13 as part of regulatory requirements, or its licence could be suspended.

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