As departure and arrival gates slammed shut with the onset of Covid-19, the hotel sector became one of the earliest casualties of the pandemic. Even though the government rolled out support measures, employers may be judging that the downturn in the hospitality sector is going to be so prolonged, the government’s short-term relief would hardly make much difference to the viability of retaining staff.
Layoffs thus began and some streamed into TWC2. Here are the profiles of two men who lost their jobs.
Vaithilingam Nirmalraj, 25, worked for A&P Maintenance Services Pte Ltd, under an S-Pass (see explanation in Glossary). He had been with the company for one year and six months, with most of it on secondment to Swisshotel.
“But last few months, I was sent to other hotels,” he adds.
His basic salary was $1,600 and the IPA (see Glossary) stated a fixed monthly allowance of $600. Thus, his total fixed monthly salary was $2,200.
Most of the time, his working day was from 8am to 5pm, in which he had to clean 16 hotel rooms.. On occasion, he might have to do more, and extra time had to be put in. He wasn’t paid the statutory overtime rate — he was entitled to it, according to law — but instead was paid $7 more for each extra room over the 16 that was the day’s quota.
He had to pay for his own accommodation. That cost about $300 a month.
On or around 2 June 2020, the last hotel he worked at cancelled the contract with A&P, and the company had no more work for him. So he lost his job. There is no outstanding salary if one discounts the possible issue of underpaid overtime.
Raj wants to go home to Chennai, India. But flights are few and far between.
“I contacted the [Indian] High Commission, and they said they will call me when there is a flight,” he tells TWC2.
What he’ll do on return is a huge unknown. He has a B.Sc in hotel management but for now, the hospitality industry all over the world is in deep freeze.
Tamilselvan Kumaresan, 34, worked for Primech Services & Engineering Pte Ltd. He and four others formed a team seconded to Amara Sanctuary Hotel on Sentosa Island. They cleaned both the hotel and the associated shopping areas.
“Hotel closed after 20 April,” he tells TWC2, and “company say no more job.” That ended three years of employment here. His last salary was received on 19 April 2020.
Here in Singapore on an S-Pass like Raj above, Kumaresan’s monthly salary was a bit higher, at $2,500 a month. He worked six days a week, with Monday as his weekly rest day.
He too is waiting for a flight back to India. What he’ll do there, despite his B.Sc in hotel management, he has no clue.
Meanwhile, he has to pay for his own accommodation. It’s costing him $380 per month for a bedspace — not a room of his own — in the Farrer Park area.
The same week that Kumaresan registered with TWC2, two other ex-Primech employees signed up too. Like Kumaresan, both Bharathi and Vinoth were S-Pass holders as well, but we didn’t get a chance to interview them. We reckon their stories would be similar.
Since these men have not lodged claims, why were they approaching TWC2? It’s not that they needed help to progress any case.
Indeed, our caseworkers would not be intervening in such situations. But as a humanitarian gesture, we take them into our free meals programme, the Cuff Road Project. Now without income and yet with no indication when they might get a flight home, our food programme will help them reduce some of the costs of waiting.
We fear, though, that there are many more in similar circumstances.