Two groups claiming to represent Macau gaming workers have told GGRAsia they expect the city’s casino operators to offer their casino staff a modest salary increase in 2017. They added that a factor in favour of such a move would be a round of Macau legislative elections due in September that year. The activists said that in the run up to the polls, some candidates with casino links might seek to garner voter support by offering salary increases or by pledging support for such action.
The labour activists thought any increase was likely to be in the range of 2 percent to 3.5 percent. For the 12 months to September 30, the average composite consumer price index in Macau increased by 2.98 percent from the previous period, according to data released in October by the city’s Statistics and Census Service.
The average monthly earnings of gaming workers in Macau – as measured in June – were the highest since records began, according to data released in August by the statistics bureau.
The Macau government proposed on Tuesday a 2.5-percent salary increase for civil servants in 2017, similar to the increase given this year.
In the second quarter 2016, Macau’s gaming industry had a total of 55,708 full-time employees, or approximately 14 percent of the city’s 397,800-strong workforce for the period, according to data released in August by the statistics bureau. While more than a third of Macau’s active workforce is made up of non-resident workers that do not have the right to vote in the city’s legislative elections, casino dealer jobs are reserved for Macau ID holders, who do have that voting right.
Leaders from, respectively, the Macau gaming worker groups Professional for Gaming of New Macau and Power of the Macao Gaming Association said they have not heard any news so far of possible 2017 salary increases for casino workers, but believe such increases are likely.
“I think it’s possible that the casino workers will still see a salary rise in 2017, when the city steps into the legislative election year,” Cloee Chao, director of Professional for Gaming of New Macau, told GGRAsia.
Ms Chao was previously a member of another casino labour group called Forefront of Macao Gaming, that in 2014 staged a number of large demonstrations outside several of the city’s casinos calling for higher pay. She said her new association had about 900 members, mostly casino table game dealers and supervisors. Trade unions are not legally recognised under Macau law, but a number of associations claim to speak for workers in different sectors. The largest umbrella grouping, the Macau Federation of Trade Unions, is generally considered to be closest to the city’s government.
“Some of the legislative election candidates [with casino links] are likely to show that they will raise the salary of their gaming employees to lure their support, because they are a good source as their voter base,” remarked Ms Chao.
In the current legislative term, the directly-elected legislators Chan Meng Kam, Angela Leong On Kei and Zheng Anting have casino links. Mr Chan, a veteran legislator, is the president of Golden Dragon Group Co Ltd, which runs Casino Golden Dragon and Casino Taipa Square. Ms Leong is an executive director of casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd. Mr Zheng has connections to the local VIP gaming promoter sector. Such entities are also commonly referred to as junkets.
Directly-elected legislator Melinda Chan Mei Yi is the wife of David Chow Kam Fai, co-chairman and chief executive of casino services firm Macau Legend Development Ltd
Ms Chao believes that Mr Chan and Ms Leong will respectively seek re-election in 2017.
“Even for the [campaigning] groups that are not directly linked to casino business and are targeting grass-roots citizens, they will also try to lure [voters’] support by pledging to answer workers’ calls for a salary increase, or to exert some social pressure for such a call,” said Ms Chao.
Stephen Lao, president of Power of the Macao Gaming Association, had a similar view.
“The gaming business has not recovered much in Macau, but at least it has shown some improvement in recent months and the gross gaming revenue is not as bad as people expected. So I think with that factor, a pay rise is still possible [for 2017],” Mr Lao remarked to GGRAsia. According to his estimate, Power of the Macao Gaming currently has around 1,600 members, mostly working in casino table games operations.
Both Mr Lao and gaming worker activist Ms Chao expect only a modest rise for casino workers next year.
“I think expecting a 4 percent increase in pay rise for casino workers [for 2017] is not realistic at all. I’d expect it will be only around 3 percent or 3.5 percent at most,” Mr Lao said.
Ms Chao has a lower expectation for casino workers’ salary increase for next year.
“I’d say at most it will be only around 2 percent – a level that the firms will show as a gesture to catch up the inflation rate,” Ms Chao remarked.
“I don’t have a high expectation for salary increases because the casino workers, especially dealers, are still in excess supply,” she added. “When the firms are still tied up with excess labour, I don’t think increasing the workers’ salaries by a large extent is their top concern,” the activist stated.
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Chief executive of MGM China Holdings