Raffles Hotel cuts 15% of staff to cope with Covid-19 fallout

Singapore

ANOTHER hotel operator is trimming its workforce as tourist arrivals and receipts continue to take a hit from Covid-19.

Raffles Hotel Singapore on Friday told The Business Times that around 15 per cent of full-time positions across all departments have been impacted, with most of them on a leave of absence. But it said that: "At this stage, no Singaporeans and permanent residents are affected."

According to an article by digital magazine High Net Worth last December, the hotel had about 500 full-time and permanent part-time employees.

Christian Westbeld, general manager for Raffles Hotel Singapore, also told BT that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the anticipated slow recovery of the travel and hospitality sector have left Raffles Hotel Singapore with the difficult choice of reducing the size of its workforce, despite the generous support and grants extended by the Singapore government. He added that the company's priority since the start of the impact of the pandemic from January 2020 has been to ensure that as many jobs as possible will be retained.

"Our immediate focus is the continued support of the affected colleagues in all ways possible throughout this challenging time. All affected colleagues will receive appropriate packages. We will also do our utmost possible to second affected colleagues where possible to sister properties locally and overseas," he informed.

He added that the company will also be organising a series of virtual programmes which will include resume writing and interview coaching classes for them.

All this follows news that Resorts World Singapore had a "one-off workforce rationalisation" this week, although roles that were axed and the number of staff affected were not disclosed.

In June, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) also said that it would not be renewing the contracts of some of its foreign employees whose fixed-term contracts expire in the third quarter of this year. Most of the affected staff were working in food and beverage operations.

MBS said that this represents a very small percentage of its overall workforce and is "not a retrenchment exercise", as non-renewal of fixed-term employment contracts takes place from time to time, as part of its ongoing review of short, medium, and long-term manpower needs across its operations. It added that MBS continues to recruit staff for positions across the integrated resort, and the workforce continues to be paid in full even as operations were suspended during the pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has battered the tourism industry. Statistics released on Friday showed Singapore's tourism receipts taking a hit in the first quarter of this year, sinking 39 per cent from a year ago to S$4 billion. The decrease in tourist receipts was across the board - from shopping to sightseeing, entertainment, gaming, food and beverage and accommodation.

Colliers International's associate director of valuation and advisory services Lee Pei Yee said that given the muted outlook for international visitation to Singapore in the near term, added to the fact that no government support is given for foreign workers, it is to be expected that hoteliers and the wider tourism sector would continue to look at cost-saving measures. "Of course, this will be done on the basis of merit, with poor performers and non-key staff finding themselves at the forefront (of the exercise).This is likely to continue the longer the current travel restrictions remain in place, with the entire hospitality and wider tourism sector likely to adopt a similar approach."

She added that hoteliers will inevitably weigh the question of what the cost will be to re-hire staff when business starts to pick up again against the decision to let them go now.