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RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Litigation & Dispute Resolution Partner and Co-Head of the Firm’s Employment Practice, Vernon Voon quoted in TODAY

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Litigation & Dispute Resolution Partner and Co-Head of the Firm’s Employment Practice, Vernon Voon quoted in TODAY article titled “MOM looking into alleged discrimination in RWS retrenchment exercise”. 

The article was first published in TODAY dated 29 July 2016.

MOM looking into alleged discrimination in RWS retrenchment exercise

Source: TODAY © Mediacorp Press Ltd.

Date: 29 July 2016

Author: Rumi Hardasmalani

​​​SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is examining Resorts World Sentosa’s (RWS) recent retrenchment exercise that laid off about 400 jobs, as former employees continue to file complaints and appeals against the integrated resort with casino, alleging discriminatory practices, unfair dismissals as well as inadequate compensation. 

While some appeals have been dismissed on various grounds, others are being followed up by the MOM. The former RWS employees whose cases are being examined by the MOM were paid below S$4,500 per month and are covered under the Employment Act. “The MOM is currently looking into the feedback received, alleging discriminatory practices in the retrenchment exercise at RWS,” a spokesperson at the MOM told TODAY.

In May, 12,000-strong RWS began laying off workers at its casino operations as turnover from Chinese high-rollers continued to slump amid a corruption crackdown in China and a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. About 150 croupiers, 200 supervisors and two dozen pit managers have been let go in recent months.

Some former employees alleged that Singaporeans were unfairly retrenched by RWS, as foreigners were retained and even sought after, pointing to an advertisement the company had placed in Malaysia for casino staff with pay offered in Singapore dollar terms. 

“It is not fair for a company to fire Singaporeans and hire foreigners at lower Singapore dollar salaries … The advertisement was later pulled,” one complainant said.

“We were fired on the spot without any satisfactory explanation on how individuals were chosen for the job cuts. The company’s Performance Level Assessment programme is unfair,” said an appellant who complained to the MOM last month. 

In its e-mail responses to these appeals seen by TODAY, the MOM indicated that RWS is being engaged to find out more about the retrenchment exercise. The MOM said it was “waiting for the company’s response on how they have conducted the retrenchment exercise and their decision-making process on deriving the list of employees to be retrenched”. 

“We will continue to engage with MOM to facilitate any clarification, if necessary … We would like to reiterate that RWS has worked closely with the MOM and the Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) to extend fair terms to all affected employees,” an RWS spokesperson said in response to TODAY’s queries. 

According to employment and labour relations lawyer Vernon Voon, a partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, there are no regulations that require RWS to terminate foreign employees before Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents, as companies retain the right to retrench based on their needs and the skill sets of their employees, and not by virtue of nationality. 

However, he added: “Although the retrenchment per se is not unfair or unlawful, MOM should be astute to discern if RWS’ retrenchment exercise has unfairly targeted Singaporeans … or used criteria for retrenchment that are not objective and relevant to the job at hand.”

AREU executive secretary Desmond Choo said that, despite the absence of a collective agreement, the affected Singaporean workers received retrenchment packages as well as additional S$1,500 training grant payouts that will help them secure jobs in other industries or in positions that may require retraining. 

“Our union members also received 12 months’ union membership fees by the management, which will enable them to continue to enjoy union membership benefits such as scholarship and bursaries for their children, financial assistance as well as other social benefits. Additionally, AREU has also offered financial assistance and training opportunities to union members,” Mr Choo said.