Singapore: World-renowned Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) is going to exceptional lengths to ensure its staff are well taking care of during the Covid-19 pandemic.
With no fewer than 81 holes of golf, 13 food and beverage outlets and five clubhouses to maintain, SICC employs more than 500 staff to serve the total membership of 18,000 at one of Asia’s best-known and most prestigious private clubs.
However, since the introduction of the Singapore Government’s ‘circuit breaker’, barely 10 per cent of the staff are permitted to operate at the club at any given time.
“It’s a challenging situation for everyone,” said Desmond Tay, General Manager at SICC, a Golf Course Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF). “Many businesses have had to close down, and that has included country clubs and all the facilities and recreation we have. Recreation services are not considered essential.
“In order to restrict movement and allow good social distancing between civilians, only essential services like food supply, medical and financial businesses have remained open in Singapore. So, we’re all restricted. Most people have to carry out their business and function from home. Others have had to take leave and stay at home to prevent direct interaction with other people. There’s very minimum movement.
“Like at all other clubs, we’re trying to hold onto our staff. No-one is being laid off at this moment. At SICC, the staff have contributed a lot during the good times and helped make the club successful and put it where it is today. So, I don’t think during these few months we can say we can’t withstand this crisis.
“With the approval of the club chairman and the committee we continue to support all the staff and will pay them in full during this period. At this time, we’re not going to reduce the number of staff or deduct any pay roll and we don’t require any staff to go on unpaid leave.
“There are some staff who have a lot of balance leave that they’ve been unable to clear. This is the best chance for them to start clearing some of their long outstanding leave. It also means we can prepare for the pent-up demand of the members because when we re-open, I want all our staff to be healthy and at full strength and able to cater to our business needs.”
In keeping with Government guidelines, SICC has been operating with a skeleton staff.
Speaking in the latest in a series of AGIF podcasts with leading lights from the industry that are being broadcast at www.agif.asia, Tay said: “The Government allows very minimum staff and we have to go through a very stringent application process in order to determine how many staff are required for the day-to-day operation at the club. If this number is to be proven to be an essential service then we can get an exemption. Currently, we have about 10% of our total workforce, about 50 staff.
“We have staff authorised to work in golf course maintenance and bare minimum housekeeping and security personnel to make sure the club is protected. Most of the 10% are in food and beverage. We provide food for members and they’re able to order for takeaway or drive-through.”
Although 90% of the staff are currently unable to visit the club premises, SICC remains in constant contact.
Tay said: “For those who are at home, we have organised a number of things. Our Human Resources department is engaging with the staff and working on some training programmes and wellness programmes or refreshing them with some of the club’s standard operating procedures.
“The bottom line for us is to make sure that staff are healthy – not only physically healthy but also to make sure they are not suffering from financial issues.
“I hold a weekly e-meeting – a Zoom session with staff to learn their status and how they are. Last week we had 87 staff logging in from Singapore and Malaysia, people from all departments, seniors and juniors. Every day we are keeping track of our staff: who is working, who is at home, whether they’re in Malaysia or Singapore, and how they are. We have a hotline and they can call us at any time and let us know if anything has happened to them.”
Even before the latest circuit breaker came into force on April 7, the club was making sure staff were well catered to. “We put together 500 ration packs, consisting of essential items such as rice and noodles. We gave these out to all members of staff to bring home before the circuit breaker started,” said Tay.