Singapore

RWS retrenches staff as ‘last resort’ to cope with Covid-19

It says it has managed to retain most of its local employees, but others are facing an uncertain future

The gloomy, overcast morning on Madam Amy Low's commute to work at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) seemed a portent of things to come when she found out that many of her colleagues from different departments were being called in and retrenched.

Then she was told to report to a room herself with several hundred others, she said, where she found out she was also being let go.

Madam Low, 55, a Malaysian, who had worked in housekeeping at RWS for two years, said she was given a black bag to put her things in and ushered off the premises.

She said she was informed that retrenched workers would get a severance package pegged to the number of years they had worked there.

RWS said yesterday the retrenchment exercise was a "one-off workplace rationalisation" and that the company has managed to retain the vast majority of its local staff.

It is understood that about 2,000 employees were laid off, but when asked, RWS did not want to confirm any figure.

The integrated resort had about 7,000 employees as of the end of last year.

THOROUGH PROCESS

RWS added that the decision was made after a thorough process of careful deliberation and consultation.

Tourism worldwide has been hard hit by the pandemic as countries, including Singapore, imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Noting that the pandemic's impact on tourism has been devastating, RWS said: "Its pervasive and lasting effects will accelerate shifts in the tourism industry that require significant adjustments by all travel and tourism players.

"RWS will begin the journey to adapt and transform as we stand united with Singapore to weather this crisis and prepare for the recovery of Singapore's tourism."

It said it has been streamlining its operational resources to stay agile and respond quickly to situations in the current unpredictable climate.

"Over the past few months, we have reviewed all costs, eliminated non-essential spending and reduced the salaries of management by up to 30 per cent."

It added that all affected staff will get fair compensation. It is working with the Government and various agencies to help them find new jobs.

Local workers who were retrenched will each have at least two to three job opportunities to consider.

RWS said it has worked with a multi-agency task force, which includes Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) and the National Trades Union Congress' Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), to identify and match job openings to affected Singaporeans and permanent residents based on their skills and experience.

RWS said: "We fully understand the difficulty and anxiety this means to impacted team members and their families.

"We stand in solidarity with the Singapore Government in identifying all possible opportunities to help them transition smoothly to new careers."

It added it has worked with AREU to ensure the vast majority of its local staff have been retained.

Retained staff will be trained to drive growth in its RWS2.0 transformation, which was announced in April last year as a $4.5 billion project to revolutionise visitor experience at the integrated resort.

It will add more than 164,000 sq m of gross floor area, with new facilities including a waterfront complex housing two hotels, retail establishments and additions to Universal Studios Singapore (USS).

Examples of new jobs include roles in predictive analytics, environmental services, and entertainment support for new zones in USS.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation was aware of RWS' organisational changes and is working with AREU to help affected employees.

The task force is made up of representatives from Workforce Singapore, MOM, NTUC and e2i.

e2i and AREU said in a joint statement that RWS had decided on the exercise as a last resort. e2i said it has invited employers from various industries to hold physical job fairs under the SGUnited Jobs initiative.

Labour chief Ng Chee Meng, who visited RWS yesterday morning to speak with retrenched workers, said NTUC will continue to engage RWS on their recovery plans and transformation journey.

"We urge other employers to also tap NTUC's Job Security Council to assist workers to transit to new employment quickly," he added.

For Madam Low, the future is now uncertain. She said she barely has any savings, and her rent and bills will soon make it difficult for her to continue living in Singapore.

She was the sole breadwinner of her family of five in Ipoh, as her husband is unemployed.

"I don't have enough savings to last more than two weeks. After that, I'm penniless until the settlement comes in, and who knows when that will be," she said, adding it would be difficult for someone her age to find re-employment in Singapore. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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