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Resorts World Sentosa announces 'one-off' layoffs, pledges to protect 'Singaporean core'

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Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which reopened to visitors in early July, is turning to the last resort - job cuts - as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the tourism industry.

RESORTS World Sentosa (RWS), which reopened to visitors in early July, is now turning to the last resort - job cuts - as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the tourism industry.

The integrated resort announced "the difficult decision to implement a one-off workforce rationalisation" in a statement on Wednesday. The move, which was carried out on the same day, came after earlier rounds of cost-cutting efforts.

Meanwhile, RWS said it will invest in remaining employees' skills with an eye on future growth. This includes technology-enabled job redesign, focusingon productivity and higher-value jobs.

"RWS takes a long-term view of our manpower needs," the Genting Singapore-owned resort added, citing a target of "a stronger Singaporean core forming three-quarters of the workforce".

Without giving figures, RWS noted that it has managed to keep "a vast majority of local staff" in the retrenchment exercise. Genting Singapore had about 9,400 employees in 2019, when just over seven in 10 were either Singapore citizens or permanent residents.

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Even as it pledged to identify "all possible opportunities to help them transition smoothly to new careers", RWS said that it has already found at least two new job opportunities for every affected local worker, with the help of public agencies and the labour movement.

For instance, a middle-aged junior sous chef was matched with jobs in public hospital kitchens, as well as chef positions in two food and beverage companies.

Meanwhile, customer service roles in the public sector, fast food industry and retail industry were suggested for a crew lead with a secondary-school education, alongside the opportunity to retrain at the Institute of Technical Education as a healthcare aide.

RWS operations most recently reported a 53.1 per cent year-on-year fall in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation to S$159.3 million for the quarter to March 31.

That was before the pandemic forced international borders to close and a two-month quasi-lockdown to take place. Genting Singapore, which had issued a profit guidance in March for the half-year to end-June 2020, later told shareholders at its annual general meeting that it also expects its full-year performance to "be significantly and adversely impacted".

Media across the Causeway had earlier reported a 15 per cent workforce reduction, or about 3,000 employees, at sister company Genting Malaysia's Resorts World Genting property.

Resorts World Genting also slashed monthly basic salaries of its remaining staff by up to 30 per cent, according to a report on June 28 by Maybank Kim Eng analyst Yin Shao Yang, who estimated that the move could lower full-year staff costs by as much as 40 per cent.

When asked what roles in Singapore have been axed and what share of the headcount these comprise, a spokesperson for RWS declined to provide The Business Times with numbers, citing "business and team members' confidentiality".

Genting Singapore's headcount has been trending downwards in recent years, falling by 8.7 per cent year on year in 2019 and 4.2 per cent in 2018, annual reports showed.

Meanwhile, other cost control measures previously taken since March 2020 include cuts to management pay cheques of up to 30 per cent. Directors also had their fees or salaries reduced, while all employees were encouraged to take no-pay or annual leave.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) called retrenchment "a last resort" in the wake of the "unprecedented, immediate, and immense" industry impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

NTUC units affirmed in a joint statement that RWS has fulfilled its obligations, such as through talks with union representatives, and fair compensation terms.

The prevailing norm is to pay out between two weeks and one month of salary for each year of service, although RWS did not specify the terms that it had agreed on.

"We are working closely with RWS to provide employment facilitation support measures - which include customised job matching efforts and dedicated employability workshops - for the affected workers," said Gilbert Tan, assistant director-general of the NTUC and chief executive of the Employment and Employability Institute.  

He added: "We strongly urge businesses to tap on (sic) the NTUC Job Security Council ecosystem to provide greater job security for workers, shorten their unemployment period when there are job losses, and to help workers transit quickly into new employment."

Keith Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, said: "We understand that their decision to reduce staff strength was not an easy one, but was necessary for the organisation to transform and build resilience during this challenging time." In a statement, he lauded the resort's "important contributions to our tourism sector and economy as a whole, since its opening 10 years ago".

Shares of Genting Singapore were flat at 77.5 Singapore cents as at 1.05pm on Wednesday.

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