RWS workers face uncertain future after mass retrenchment exercise

Retrenched workers would get a severance package pegged to the number of years they had worked there. PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - The gloomy, overcast morning on Madam Amy Low's commute to work at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) seemed a portent of things to come when she found out that many of her colleagues from different departments were being called in and retrenched.

Then she was told to report to a room herself with several hundred others, she said, where she found out she too was being let go, along with what her supervisor said were many others.

Last known estimates of RWS' workforce indicate that the company had around 7,000 staff members at the end of last year. It is understood that about 2,000 employees were laid off, but when asked, RWS did not want to confirm any figure.

Madam Low, 55, a Malaysian, told The Straits Times that she had worked in housekeeping at RWS for two years. That all came to a swift end on Wednesday (July 15) morning when she was given a black bag to put her things in, and ushered off the premises.

She said she was informed that retrenched workers would get a severance package pegged to the number of years they had worked there.

ST spoke to six employees let go in the mass retrenchment exercise, who said they had been told by their bosses that the retrenched workers were from a variety of departments - encompassing everything from cleaners and security personnel to front-of-house and housekeeping staff, as well as casino dealers and waiters at restaurants and bars.

For Madam Low, the future is now uncertain. She said she barely has any savings, as she lived from pay cheque to pay cheque, and her rent and bills will soon make it difficult for her to continue living in Singapore. She will eventually have to return to her family of five in Ipoh - of which she was the sole breadwinner, as her husband is currently unemployed as well.

"I don't have enough savings to last more than two weeks. After that, I'm penniless until the settlement comes in, and who knows when that will be," she said, adding that it would be difficult for someone her age to find re-employment in Singapore.

Meanwhile, other employees said they had some savings but would struggle to find employment.

"I have a very limited skill set, and now that entertainment venues aren't well patronised, I don't know what I'm going to do," said a Malaysian waiter and bar staff in his late 30s, who gave his name as Mr Toh.

Casino dealers were also not exempt from the retrenchment exercise. A Malaysian croupier in his 40s named Andrew told ST he had "seen this coming", but still wasn't financially prepared to lose his job on such short notice.

"I don't think anyone wakes up and prepares to get fired that day, but we had heard (talk) in our chat groups that this was going to happen," Andrew said. He also said he and his colleagues noticed that the majority of those being called up seemed to be foreigners and work pass holders.

Employees at RWS and the adjacent Universal Studios Singapore who managed to keep their jobs told ST they too were fearful that the drastic cuts would eventually be extended to them.

"It is hard not to worry about where my next pay cheque will come from after seeing so many colleagues get retrenched at one go," said a Singaporean employee at RWS' front-of-house who declined to be named.

The employee, a man in his 40s, said that he would not be surprised if workers like himself who escaped the job cuts would be asked to take on more duties or work more shifts - but hopes that the staff will be compensated appropriately.

"With so many people gone, someone will have to pick up the slack," agreed another Singaporean in his 30s who works at one of hotel's food and beverage establishments and did not want to be named.

"Of course, having more work to do is way better than the thought of losing my job," he said.

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