SINGAPORE: The majority of workers laid off by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) last month were foreigners, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a statement on Thursday (Aug 6).
The retrenchment exercise led to an increase in the share of local workers in RWS from 66 per cent to 75 per cent, the ministry added.
In its review, MOM noted that preference was given for locals to be retained in instances where a foreign and local employee had the same performance grade.
"In fact, for each category of workers, the foreign employee had to have a higher performance rating compared to the local employee, in order not to be retrenched," said MOM.
RWS also gave "added consideration" to retain locals who volunteered to work at the COVID-19 community care facility set up by the company in April.
According to the ministry, a small group of affected workers had raised concerns on whether RWS had considered other options besides retrenchment, the retrenchment benefit quantum and whether RWS had retained foreigners at the expense of local employees.
RWS is one of Singapore's biggest private-sector employers with more than 7,000 full-time employees as of last year.
The company announced on Jul 15 it was laying off staff as part of cost-cutting measures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It declined to say how many staff members were affected when contacted by CNA.
'A STRONGER SINGAPOREAN CORE'
Based on "detailed information" provided by the company to MOM and the Attractions, Resorts and Entertainment Union (AREU), the ministry noted that the workers were laid off after RWS made efforts to eliminate "non-essential spending" and reduced management salaries by up to 30 per cent.
The company also paid out retrenchment benefits of 0.5 month per year of service to eligible workers, which MOM said was "within the limits of the tripartite guidelines" for firms adversely hit by COVID-19.
"Similar to many companies in the tourism sector, COVID-19 had impacted RWS deeply as well with sharp declines in the flow of visitors to its casino and attractions.
"Business volume is unlikely to return to pre-COVID levels for the foreseeable future," said MOM.
Overall, the company now "has a stronger Singaporean core" with the increased share of local workers after the retrenchment exercise, said MOM.
In particular, the casino department's pit and assistant pit supervisor section - which had "many local complainants" alleging discrimination against them - saw its share of local workers rising from 78 per cent to 86 per cent.
The ministry said it "fully appreciates the anxiety experienced by workers involved in any retrenchment exercise" and added that RWS had also worked closely with AREU prior to the layoffs to ensure that it would be carried out "fairly and responsibly" according to the tripartite advisories.
Further help is also being given to the affected employees, including outplacement and job search support, as well as job matching services, training opportunities and interview sessions, said MOM.
The ministry said it will continue to monitor firms where workers are being laid off for any unfair retrenchment practices.
"We remind employers to treat all workers with dignity and respect, and for the management to share the burden of cutting costs in order to save jobs."
NTUC assistant secretary-general and advisor to AREU Desmond Choo said in a Facebook post on Friday that the affected workers had shared their concerns about future employment and living expenses to AREU.
"AREU and I are reassured that RWS had carried out this retrenchment exercise responsibly and had provided help for the workers to the best of their abilities during the COVID-19 outbreak," said Mr Choo.
"I also urge the companies to observe the NTUC fair retrenchment framework and the existing tripartite advisory and guidelines on managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment, so that the interests of both the companies and workers are protected."