My younger sister will lose her job in a hotel at the end of May this year. She has been working as a waitress for the renowned hotel in Johor Bahru for the past 21 years.
She and her colleagues were asked to attend an urgent meeting one morning recently. It was then they learnt the shocking news.
The news might have been shocking but not unexpected. Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic last year, occupancy has been down with the hotel experiencing booking cancellations. Many hotel outlets had closed and business was poor for the outlets that remained open.
My sister and her colleagues had been asked to take more days off and were paid smaller salaries. Compared to hundreds of other workers in other industries who were immediately laid off by their employers, they considered themselves lucky. Their hotel had lasted for more than a year.
After being told that her hotel will close at the end of May, my sister is making arrangements to return to Kuching. She has no choice. If she stays on, it will be hard for her to survive in Johor Bahru.
She is currently renting a big house near the hotel for RM1,000 a month. The old house has several rooms. My sister takes one room and rents out the rest to others, mostly her colleagues from the hotel.
By the end of May, her colleagues will be out of jobs and cannot afford to pay the rent. All are making plans to return to their kampung, with some saying that they will sell burgers there for a living.
If my sister stays on, she cannot live in the house anymore. The landlady will not rent out just one room to her. If my sister stays on, she has to pay RM1,000 for the entire house.
The cost of living in Johor Bahru is high. On top of the house rent, she has to take care of the electricity and water bills as well as her own food and living expenses.
My sister is not young anymore. She is 55 and was hoping to retire from the service industry at the age of 60. Then came the bombshell from her hotel.
Even though they know that May 31 will be their last day at work, my sister and her colleagues who are attached to the hotel’s Chinese restaurant are still giving their best service.
Knowing that the hotel will fold up soon, many members of the public are surprisingly patronising the restaurant, which is well known for its Chinese food.
Last night, my sister reported that the restaurant served 15 tables. Due to the pandemic, each table is limited to five customers only.
Having lived in Johor Bahru for 21 years, my sister has bought many things including beds, mattresses, a fridge and air-conditioner and accumulated a lot of clutter in the process.
“If you move back, don’t bring too many things,” advised her daughter, Ah Hong. “Just limit them to two suitcases. Throw away or donate the rest. Maybe we will ship back some of the things like the fridge or air-conditioner. It depends on the shipping charges.”
To help her mother pack, my niece is trying to book a flight to Johor Bahru.
There are no flights in April and flights are available only in early May.
“Is there any need for police permit for interstate travel?” she asked me.
“Don’t know, you check with the police,” I said.
“What about quarantine and swab tests?”
“Don’t know, you go and check.”
Now is not a good time for interstate travel because of the strict Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
A happy-go-lucky type, my sister has never planned for her future. Many years ago, when we asked her where she would live after retirement, she just kept mum. We thought she would retire in Ulu Yam, her husband’s kampung. But he is still working in a food outlet in Kuala Lumpur. He had to find a job in the federal capital because there were no jobs in the food business for him in Johor Bahru.
Where will my sister stay in Kuching? Maybe she will rent a house, a room or buy a cheap flat. She is leaving it all to her daughter.
I wish she had properly planned for her future and invested in a house in Kuching when she was young. Then everything will be fine when she retires. As it is now, things are a mess.
So, my friends, if you are young, start planning for your future now. Know where you will be staying when you retire.