RWS lets go of 400 staff as casino sees fewer visitors
SINGAPORE — Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is cutting its casino headcount and letting go of close to 400 employees as it struggles against unprecedented headwinds from the retreat of mainly Chinese high rollers due to a combination of a corruption crackdown led by President Xi Jinping and a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy.
TODAY understands that about 150 croupiers, 200 supervisors and 25 pit managers have been let go in recent weeks, either via voluntary retrenchment or termination of services. A pit manager, who was served his letter on Thursday (June 9) after being with RWS since it opened in 2010, told TODAY the casino has about 1,400 croupiers, 700 supervisors and 130 pit managers.
The retrenchment exercise at the 12,000-staff strong RWS is understood to have started in late May this year, with the integrated resort keeping government authorities and unions in the loop.
“RWS first offered us a voluntary retrenchment scheme with a package of half a month’s salary for every year of service. Whoever wanted to volunteer, they just give it to them first,” said the pit manager, who requested anonymity. “After that, they informed us they would be firing some of us in one week’s time.”
The pit manager said he did not take up the voluntary retrenchment offered in May, and was “sacked” on Thursday and told to leave on the same day. According to the source, RWS started serving letters on Monday.
“I asked why they chose me, but they were unable to explain it properly. They just said that my performance for the previous year was average and they were expecting better performance,” the pit manager said, recalling his conversation with an assistant vice president and HR manager on Thursday morning. He was given a severance package in excess of S$35,000 for his six years of service with the company.
“My wife is in terrible shock; she’s been crying the whole day … Some of my colleagues had just bought houses. Not even one month yet then this thing happen … The whole resort world casino staff, there is so much stress, they are traumatized, wondering if they will be called up next,” he said.
A retrenchment letter given to those laid off and seen by TODAY stated that they were being “made redundant” because of the difficulties facing the casino businesses.
“In anticipation that the business situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon, we have made a very difficult decision to reduce manpower,” the document said.
A retrenched pit supervisor, who has been with the company for about seven years, said: “I lost my job and was paid three and a half months salary as a compensation package. It is not enough,” he said.
Recalling better times in the past, another employee who has been with the RWS Casino for six years said: “We need to stay strong even during the hard times now. We do not know who will be leaving RWS.”
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it had been notified of the retrenchment exercise and has updated RWS on the revised Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment.
“Together with Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB), MOM is working closely with both the company and union to render assistance to the affected employees,” a spokesperson at the ministry told TODAY.
Meanwhile, the integrated resort said that it is in the process of reviewing its operational resources to ensure it stays relevant in this challenging market. “With the current business environment, it is necessary for RWS to review the headcount in its gaming business so that it can achieve the right size to meet its business needs,” a RWS spokesperson said in response to queries.
With the VIP gaming business stumbling and net exchange losses on investments ballooning, Genting Singapore, which runs RWS integrated resort, reported an 83 per cent year-on-year plunge in net profit to S$10.8 million in the first quarter to end-March.
The Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) was informed of this review process early in May.
“AREU has advised RWS to consider alternative ways of managing its manpower where possible. These could include upskilling employees and redesigning jobs, as well as redeploying affected workers to work in other functions within the company,” Mr Desmond Choo, executive secretary at AREU, told TODAY.
A senior staff, who had been with RWS even prior to the opening, said he was disappointed with the way in which the retrenchment exercise was carried out. He was served his letter on Thursday.
“They did not give us a chance to negotiate. All this wasn’t done very professionally. They showed no empathy. Moreover we are the opening team and they do this to us,” he said, requesting anonymity. “They should have got us together to negotiate and come up with some consensus so we can keep up our jobs, instead of just telling us you’re finished and leaving us high and dry … It doesn’t just affect us, what about our children, parents, homes? We are just a number to them.”
The company and the Union said in a joint statement that they have been working together to ensure fair compensation and treatment for the affected employees. “Together with NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), AREU will work closely with RWS to provide training and job placement assistance for affected employees,” Mr Choo added.
Most of the employees affected are likely to be foreigners and the impact, according to Mr Song Seng Wun, CIMB Private Banking economist in Singapore, may not be seen as much on locals. While the crackdown on corruption by Chinese authorities is the key factor, macroeconomic headwinds in the Republic, the region and globally is having an impact on the casino business by keeping high rollers in general at bay. Such VIP customers typically deposit more than S$100,000 with the casino as they go gambling.
“The casinos in the Republic are largely dependent on Chinese VIP customers. They may shift focus to the mass market but it would not be strong enough to offset the losses caused by the high rollers retreating. Strict government regulations around junkets have also affected casinos,” Mr Song said.
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