SINGAPORE: Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) said on Friday (Jun 10) that it consulted the Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) to ensure that its recent retrenchment exercise was carried out in "a responsible, transparent and sensitive manner".
In a press statement to Channel NewsAsia, RWS said it is offering an upfront S$1,500 training grant payout to its local retrenched employees as well as paying their union membership fee for another 12 months. This is on top of compensation packages offered to the affected staff.
RWS added: “We understand it is a difficult time for our affected employees and we have been working closely with the Ministry of Manpower and the Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union to ensure that we extend fair terms to all affected employees. We have adopted the Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower in carrying out this decision.”
RWS did not confirm the exact number retrenched, but according to a TODAY report, it laid off about 375 employees following what the integrated resort said was a review of "its operational resources” amid falling profits in the gaming industry.
TERMS OF COMPENSATION 'POOR': RETRENCHED EMPLOYEE
A group of retrenched employees who requested anonymity said RWS had stopped renewing the work permits of foreigners since last year. And on May 27 this year, some employees were given a voluntary retrenchment offer, which they had four days to accept.
Applications for the voluntary retrenchment scheme opened on May 28, and ended at midnight on May 31. They said this was taken up mostly by foreigners, and the offer comprised half a month's salary for every year of service.
But from June, RWS started to retrench more employees, with the compensation package being similar to the one offered to those who took it up voluntarily, according to this group of retrenched employees, who comprised both Singaporeans and foreigners.
With much uncertainty during this period of layoffs, the group said that this has caused them much stress and anxiety, with some being the sole breadwinners of their families. One employee even cut short his holiday to return to Singapore, only to be told that he was going to be retrenched. Several other employees who were on maternity leave were also retrenched, they said.
The group added that they hoped to receive more compensation from the company, which had reportedly told employees during recent town hall meetings that the company “does not do retrenchments”, even during previous periods of economic slowdown.
Another employee who was laid off told Channel NewsAsia that being a foreigner, she had been prepared for the retrenchment exercise, given the current business climate. She added that “the company really tried to save the workers as much as they can, but it came to the point that they badly needed to downsize the manpower to save and maintain”.
A Singaporean who was retrenched said he felt the terms of compensation were poor, despite having worked at RWS for over six years. He told Channel NewsAsia that those retrenched received a Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) pamphlet. He was also offered the chance to attend a resume preparation programme by the union for free between June 13 and 14.
But he said that it would be difficult for him to find a job. “Regarding finding a job, (there might be) limitations due to some of the Singaporeans or Permanent Residents not having high qualifications, and this will make it hard to find a job to support their families. For me, there might be difficulty to find a good paying job due to my low qualifications and my age; (I am) not young anymore.”
In the letter to those retrenched, RWS said: “In anticipation that the business situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon, we have made a difficult decision to reduce manpower. We regret to inform that your position has been made redundant. This decision is made after very careful considerations and unsuccessful attempts to find you another position.”
RWS has about 12,000 employees, with about a third being union members. Of those retrenched, AREU said that 217 are union members.
AREU executive secretary Desmond Choo said: "By and large, we told RWS that if retrenchment is inevitable, do follow established guidelines about managing excess manpower, which was published two to three weeks ago. And I think that they abided by that. In fact, they decided to go one step further and offer a training grant.
“For those of them whom for business operations reasons, they cannot serve the notice period, they will pay notice … one month's notice in lieu of that. So I think they've been as fair as they can. But I think for workers, the focus must be to help them to get a job as quickly as we can."
Separately, the Manpower Ministry said, together with WDA and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), that it is working closely with both the company and union to render assistance to the affected employees.
GAMING INDUSTRY HURT BY FALLING RECEIPTS FROM CHINESE TOURISTS
Chinese tourists are spending less in Singapore and this has hurt the gaming industry. According to statistics from STB, about 2.1 million Chinese tourists visited Singapore in 2015. This is an increase of 22.3 per cent from 2014.
However, tourist receipts from Chinese visitors have declined 4 per cent. This has had a significant impact on Singapore’s two integrated resorts, as one in two Chinese visitors visited either RWS or Marina Bay Sands (MBS) during their stay.
Revenue and EBITA (Earnings before interest, tax and amortisation) at Singapore's two integrated resorts have been on a decline.
Ms Jessalynn Chen, an analyst at CIMB, said RWS' focus on the VIP segment has taken a hit from China's anti-corruption drive both in terms of lower VIP rolling chip volume and higher bad debt charges. However, she added that the city location of the MBS integrated resort has helped it gain an edge in attracting the mass market segment, with customers mostly from the ASEAN region.
UOB economist Mr Francis Tan added that the decline in spending by Chinese tourists is likely to persist. This comes as the renminbi has fallen in value against the Singapore dollar, which in turn reduces the purchasing power of Chinese tourists.
Mr Tan said: “The integrated resorts in Singapore are very much reliant on the demand from the Chinese visitors, and with the Xi Jinping administration clamping down quite a lot on luxury spending, we do see that that's definitely have some impact in terms of the gaming revenue of the integrated resorts."