VIRUS OUTBREAK

Millennium Hotels and Resorts cuts 159 more jobs

Nearly one-third of its over 145 hotels worldwide are temporarily shuttered

Singapore

AS THE pandemic hobbles the global tourism industry, Millennium Hotels and Resorts (MHR) cut 159 jobs - or about 15 per cent of its Singapore-based workforce - on Wednesday, following earlier reductions in its foreign worker headcount over the course of this year.

Over the past eight months, it has reduced the number of foreign workers that it employs by 37 per cent from 520 to 329 foreign employees. With Wednesday's lay-offs, 42 more foreign employees were made redundant. This takes its Singapore core from 61 per cent in January to 69 per cent presently, MHR said.

"The global pandemic and economic fallout have hit the hotels hard," MHR highlighted. As at June 30, nearly one-third of its over 145 hotels worldwide were temporarily shuttered and those that remained open were operating at depressed occupancies. "This severely impacted operations and performance," added MHR, which carried out the restructuring after a review of its local corporate office and hotel operations.

MHR is the global brand of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, which in turn is a member of the Hong Leong Group.

To achieve a fair outcome for affected employees in the restructuring, MHR management has collaborated with the Food Drinks and Allied Workers Union (FDAWU). Aside from a severance package, post-employment support in consultation with FDAWU, Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Workforce Singapore will also be offered to the affected employees.

In a separate statement, FDAWU said it secured retrenchment packages for workers in four unionised hotels out of six of MHR's hotels and one corporate office in Singapore. The other two hotels and the office are not unionised.

Prior to this, the union had already been working with MHR to roll out cost-savings measures, including redesigning jobs, training and redeploying workers and group-wide salary cuts. Those earning salaries of under S$4,600 had not seen salary reductions up to this point.

However, "even with the cost saving measures, MHR still suffered losses globally and locally, and had to turn to retrenchment as the last resort", said FDAWU's general secretary, Tan Hock Soon.

Eligible workers were given one month of salary per year of service and advance notice/salary in lieu of notice. Mr Tan added that FDAWU has also arranged for job matching assistance by NTUC's e2i, and training support by NTUC LearningHub and Skillsfuture Singapore for workers who want to upskill. MHR has committed to providing affected workers with an additional 12-month paid NTUC union membership and has also extended this subsidy to non-union members who want to sign up.

Since the pandemic first struck, MHR has been striving to curb costs by reigning in company spending, introducing salary reductions for senior management of up to 30 per cent and lower pay reductions for other employees as well as laying off and furloughing excess staff across the regions, the company highlighted. MHR plans to use part of the funds from the government's extended Jobs Support Scheme to invest in and upskill its talent as the economy slowly recovers.

John Tan, MHR's vice-president of human resources for South-east Asia, said: "This global pandemic has severely disrupted our lives and businesses in unprecedented ways, and the prolonged movement control order has reshaped our industry. We need to recognise that in this new economy, our business will take time to return to pre-Covid-19 levels."

"Thus, the rationalisation is unavoidable for our business to remain relevant and viable for our employees and stakeholders."

The aviation and tourism industries have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with companies such as integrated resort Resorts World Sentosa and budget airline Jetstar Asia among those that have cut jobs here.