SINGAPORE: Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), one of Singapore's biggest private-sector employers, said on Wednesday (Jul 15) it was laying off staff as part of cost-cutting measures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The resort, which is owned by Genting Singapore, declined to say how many staff members were affected when contacted by CNA. As of the end of last year, it had more than 7,000 full-time employees.
RWS said in a statement it had already "reviewed all costs", eliminated non-essential spending and cut the salaries of management by up to 30 per cent, but had to make the "difficult decision" to retrench employees.
"The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought about challenging economic times globally, generating a devastating impact on the tourism industry," RWS said.
"In this latest round of review, we have made the difficult decision to implement a one-off workforce rationalisation. This decision was made after a thorough process of careful deliberation and consultation," it said, adding that the move will help it prepare for the recovery of Singapore's tourism sector.
READ: Singapore in technical recession after GDP shrinks 41.2% in Q2 from preceding quarter due to COVID-19
The resort, one of Singapore's top tourist attractions, encompasses a hotel, a casino and the Universal Studios theme park among other attractions.
The company had only announced last year it would invest about S$4.5 billion to expand its tourist attractions in the country.
"We fully understand the difficulty and anxiety this means to impacted team members and their families. RWS takes a long-term view of our manpower needs, including the consideration to maintain a strong Singaporean core," it said in the statement.
RWS said it is working with various agencies to help retrenched employees find new jobs.
They include the Attractions, Resorts and Entertainment Union (AREU), Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), Public Service Division, Workforce Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore.
"At least two to three job opportunities have been successfully identified and shortlisted for every affected local team member," said RWS.
READ: Casinos, Universal Studios, Singapore Zoo among 13 attractions to reopen in July during Phase 2
READ: Singapore tourism to take 'significant hit' in 2020 due to coronavirus, up to 30% fewer visitors expected
NEWS WAS "SUDDEN": AFFECTED EMPLOYEES
Two employees affected by the layoffs told CNA that news of the company's decision was "sudden". They declined to elaborate or give details of their identities when approached outside Genting Centre in Tanjong Pagar, one of RWS' corporate offices.
People were seen streaming out of the Genting Centre lobby and the RWS convention centre in Sentosa periodically on Wednesday afternoon, carrying large bags of office items.
Several people wearing NTUC and e2i shirts were also seen at both locations. A group of them said they were not able to disclose any information when approached by CNA.
At 4.10pm, a man who was trying to get into the convention centre told CNA that a town hall session was starting in 20 minutes.
“I was called back by Human Resources the day before to attend a town hall session. Then today, a few hours before, I got to know from my friends that they are retrenching some people and I was one of the ones called,” he said.
“When I first heard that, I got a bit of a panic attack because I’m taking my degree as well. So I’m currently affected financially.”
The man, who was working at Universal Studios, said he is now “thinking of alternatives to solve this issue”.
“I just want to see how it goes later and see what alternatives are offered," he added.
CAREER COACHING, WORKSHOPS, JOB MATCHING
Responding to CNA's queries, the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation said it is aware of RWS' "organisational changes".
The task force is chaired by the chief executive of Workforce Singapore (WSG) and comprises representatives from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and e2i.
The task force said it has been working with AREU "to extend assistance to the affected employees", while e2i and WSG will offer them employment assistance services such as career coaching, employability workshops and job matching.
In a joint statement, the AREU and e2i said they were notified in advance of the layoffs.
"COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the tourism industry is unprecedented, immediate and immense," the statement said.
"We held many discussions with RWS on minimising wage and labour-related cuts. RWS had fulfilled its obligations and workers also assisted along the way; including helping out at Community Care Facilities. Retrenchment is therefore taken as a last resort."
The union also said it has worked with the resort to extend "fair compensation terms, employment-related and placement assistance" to affected employees.
In response to CNA's queries, a union spokesperson on Thursday said "each worker was presented with at least two job opportunities that were curated based on their last working experience", adding that they will be matched to the hiring employers if they are interested.
"We are also encouraging them to attend our employability and skills coaching sessions, especially the PMET workers, so we can help them fine tune their resumes and their interview skills before we do the job referral to employers."
A series of employability workshops and career guidance sessions will be rolled out by e2i and WSG, said the spokesperson.
They will cover job search, interview and resume writing skills to equip the workers for "a smoother job transition".
The workers can also attend a "dedicated skills and training advisory session" conducted by SkillsFuture Singapore, "where they can learn more about the skills needed to make a career transition such as through the SGUnited Skills Programme", the spokesperson added.
Singapore's economy sank into a technical recession in the second quarter, shrinking a record 41.2 per cent from the previous quarter, data showed on Tuesday, putting it on track for its deepest slump ever.
The tourism industry, which contributes about 4 per cent to Singapore's economy, has been one of the worst affected sectors due to travel restrictions and a "circuit breaker" period that lasted more than two months to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said RWS has 12,500 employees. The company has clarified that it has more than 7,000 full-time employees.