At least four of Macau’s six casino operators have already extended into 2021 the arrangement for voluntary unpaid leave for their respective gaming staff, three local labour groups have respectively told GGRAsia.
Local gaming staff are nonetheless feeling “more secure” about their employment outlook, compared to early 2020 and the opening stages of the Covid-19 crisis, the labour group leaders remarked.
“Basically all the unpaid leave policies that the casino operators offered so far are available as a voluntary basis [for staff]. It is also common that these unpaid leave options offered are of the “Care Leave” nature, ” said Cloee Chao, head of local gaming labour activist group New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association.
The “Care Leave” Ms Chao referred to one of several special-leave options offered by Macau casino operators, whereby gaming employees can apply to take one unpaid day off on a voluntary basis, with the entitlement to one day of additional paid lave.
“Gaming staff now do feel more secure about their jobs than some months ago. The pandemic situation has already lasted for about a year, and yet there have not been many cases of local gaming workers being laid off – that made workers feel relieved,” Ms Chao added.
Stephen Lao Ka Weng, the president of another gaming labour group, Power of the Macao Gaming Association, shared the same view.
GGRAsia approached the city’s six gaming operators, asking them to confirm whether they were extending their unpaid leave policies and asking them for any relevant details, but had not received replies from any of them before this story went online.
“Many of the gaming staff are actually willing to take those unpaid leave options, and everyone is a bit used to it already,” Mr Lao nonetheless told us.
He added that recently, “during some busier days at the gaming floors,” some local gaming workers had “even been asked by their employers to work overtime”.
But the job situation at the Macau junket operators – where junket representatives are not employed by the actual casinos – was “much more worrying”, Mr Lao noted.
“Many of the junket operators’ staff have been underemployed for quite some time already, as their businesses have dwindled so much,” he stated.
“Some junket staff said they had been asked by their employers to just take compensation for voluntarily resigning from the company. In other cases, the junket staff have been transferred to the [VIP gaming] salons with better client traffic as their employers have axed their original work places [VIP gaming rooms],” Mr Lao added.
For the September to November period, Macau’s unemployment tally stood at 11,600. Most of those searching for a new job, were previously working in either “gaming and junket activities”, or the “construction sector”, according to the latest available data published by the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
The number of the underemployed during September to November amounted to 21,400, with the majority working in “gaming and junket activities” and the “transport and storage sector”, according to the census data. Of those three months, Macau’s general unemployment rate stood at 2.9 percent; while the unemployment rate of local residents was at 4.0 percent, the census noted.
At the onset of the Covid-19 crisis at the start of this year, Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, called for casino operators to avoid job lay-offs if possible, but did not specifically mention the junket sector.
Many local employees of casino-operating companies report being encouraged by their respective employers to take a mixture of paid and unpaid leave to assist with the gaming firm’s cost-saving efforts to counter the impact of Covid-19.
“I believe this year, which had been the toughest and the worst, is over. For the new year, hopefully the work volume [for gaming workers] will gradually normalise, then everyone can get to adapt back to that fast working pace,” said Choi Kam Fu, a vice director at local traditionalist group, the Macau Federation of Trade Unions.
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