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Budget 2013: What will be in it for me?

Published on Feb 20, 2013 5:30 AM
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Mr Steven Long, general manger of Sheraton Towers Singapore, hopes that the levies for basic jobs that Singaporeans do not want - but are vital in the industry - can be relooked. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

BUSINESS

Mr Steven Long, general manger of Sheraton Towers Singapore, a mid-sized hotel with 420 rooms. It employs 320 people, of which about 70 per cent are Singaporeans and the rest foreigners from countries like Malaysia, China and Myanmar.

My biggest worry now is: The manpower crunch, rising costs, and difficulty in finding Singaporeans willing to work in this industry.

We can find Singaporeans willing to try out the job, but in the end, many of them find that this industry is not their cup of tea and they leave us. This has happened over and over again.

We have tried going to community centres, schools, etc, to hire Singaporeans. At the point of recruitment, it's quite encouraging. But on the day they're supposed to turn up at work, 30 per cent of them do not turn up. When they go into the job, 30 per cent leave after the first week. After the first month, another 20 per cent leave.

We even hire people on a part-time basis and for short-term durations, such as on a half-day basis. As far as employment arrangements go, we are trying all avenues.

It is difficult to convince Singaporeans to take on certain jobs, for example front office jobs and waiting on tables, which entail shift work and with no guarantee of getting a day off on weekends.

Our manpower costs have been rising by about 5 or 6 per cent per year for the past two or three years, ever since the integrated resorts opened and competition for workers in our industry increased. Singaporean wages have gone up, as have foreign worker levies. Utility costs have gone up too.

The Government should: As a business, we want to make sure our operations are lean and productive as well. If there are some jobs for which we have evidence that we really are unable to fill with Singaporeans, or that Singaporeans are really unwilling to work in certain jobs, we hope the Government can let us hire foreign labour.

In the hospitality industry, implementing productivity measures does not necessarily save costs. Rather, they help more to keep customers satisfied and encourage staff to stay on, as well as save time. We are in the people business, and still a labour-intensive industry.

I hope the Budget will: We want the Government to understand that we hire foreign workers because we cannot get Singaporeans, and as such we have to pay levies and this raises our cost of doing business.

We will continue to try to hire Singaporeans, but given that we are having difficulties doing so, the Government should not load us too heavily with levies. It's not that we do not give Singaporeans a chance, but we have no choice.

We hope that the levies for basic jobs that Singaporeans do not want - but are vital in the industry - can be relooked. Basic jobs in the hotel industry include waiters and waitresses, front office receptionists and security.

For more news and analysis on Singapore Budget 2013, click here for ST's Big Story coverage.

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