Retrenched RWS workers during Covid-19 pandemic were mostly foreigners, says MOM

Singaporeans formed 75 per cent of the working staff after the lay-offs. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Foreigners bore the brunt of last month's retrenchment exercise at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), with the integrated resort making efforts to cut costs and management salaries before it laid off workers, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a statement on Thursday (Aug 6).

Before the retrenchment, local workers formed about 66 per cent of the staff. After the lay-offs, the proportion increased to 75 per cent.

"Overall, after the retrenchment exercise, RWS has a stronger Singaporean core," said the ministry, responding to queries regarding the laying off of about 2,000 RWS employees.

"In all instances where a foreign employee and local employee had the same performance grade, preference was given to the local to be retained. 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 the MOM.

It also said RWS gave added consideration to retain local employees who had volunteered to work at the community care facility set up by RWS in April to help in the fight against Covid-19.

Some of the affected workers had voiced concerns and sought help from the ministry and the Attractions, Resorts and Entertainment Union (AREU). They asked whether RWS had considered other options besides retrenchment, expressed concerns over the retrenchment benefit quantum and wanted to know if RWS had retained foreigners at the expense of local employees.

The ministry said prior to the retrenchment exercise, RWS worked closely with the union to ensure that the exercise would be carried out fairly and responsibly according to the tripartite advisories.

Touching on the matter of the retrenchment benefits paid, MOM said RWS had suffered difficulties because of Covid-19 but had adhered to ministry guidelines on such matters.

"Given the adverse impact on its business, RWS' payment of 0.5 month per year of service for those who were retrenched and eligible for retrenchment benefit is within the limits of the tripartite guidelines for all firms in similar circumstances," said the ministry.

Based on information provided by RWS, the ministry said the integrated resort had also made efforts to cut non-essential spending, and reduced the salaries of management by up to 30 per cent.

The ministry said that, like many companies in the tourism sector, RWS had been impacted deeply by Covid-19, "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," it added.

MOM said it also studied the impact of the exercise on RWS' Casino Department's Pit and Assistant Pit Supervisor section, as many local complainants from these sections had alleged discrimination against them.

Following the retrenchment, the share of local workers in these sections increased from 78 per cent to 86 per cent, said the MOM.

The ministry said it will continue to monitor for unfair practices among companies conducting retrenchments and reminded employers to treat all workers with dignity and respect, as well as for management to share the burden of cutting costs to save jobs.

The AREU is also working with the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation to give outplacement and job search support for all affected RWS employees.

Through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package and the National Trades Union Congress' Jobs Security Council, affected employees will also be provided with job-matching services, training opportunities and interview sessions to help them apply for and transit to new jobs.

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