Union steps up push for recognition by Marina Bay Sands

PHOTO: Union steps up push for recognition by Marina Bay Sands

SINGAPORE - After two years of trying to get Marina Bay Sands (MBS) to become a unionised company, the union for leisure sector employees has upped the ante.

The Attractions, Resorts and Entertainment Union (AREU) has gone to the doorstep of the integrated resort to recruit employees as direct union members.

It has also served the resort operator with an official claim for recognition - a key step which could force a secret ballot of MBS staff.

If more than half of those who vote in the ballot declare themselves as union members, the company will have to recognise the union, which will then be able to represent its employees and negotiate collective agreements.

The integrated resort, owned by United States firm Las Vegas Sands, is one of Singapore's biggest employers with 9,000 staff.

Since last month, the union has been more aggressive in recruiting members at the MBS staff entrance by Bayfront MRT station, carrying out publicity drives three to four times a week for 24 hours each time.

This week, it has been doing so daily, and has set up a booth for employees to sign up on the spot.

National Trades Union Congress staff, wearing sandwich boards with messages about workers' rights, also handed out fliers and tissue packets printed with the union's contact information.

AREU estimates that about 70 per cent of MBS' 9,000 workers may be eligible for union membership.

"No matter what, we want the staff to be aware of their rights and that the union is there to help them," said AREU general secretary Charles Khng yesterday.

On the paperwork front, the official form to ask for recognition was served last month. This is usually a formality, as companies which have informally agreed to unionisation simply sign off on it.

But in this case, MBS has yet to agree.

Under Singapore's labour laws, the Commissioner for Labour can call for a secret ballot if a company rejects the official form.

But union leaders have insisted that the secret ballot is a last resort, and that they want MBS on board as a willing partner.

They said their recent publicity drive was simply to raise awareness, and was not linked to the ballot.

"Our ultimate goal is not to go for the secret ballot," said union president Hassan Abdullah.

AREU has 7,600 members and is recognised by more than 20 companies, including clubhouses and attractions such as Sentosa.

It has not had to unionise a company via secret ballot before, although the practice is not uncommon among other unions.

An MBS spokesman confirmed yesterday that it had received the request from AREU and is now in discussions with the union.

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