Seven associations representing casino workers in Macau have shown their support to a full smoking ban inside casinos. The associations are also calling on the government to implement a trade union law and the right to collective bargaining, said legislator José Pereira Coutinho.
The seven associations held a joint meeting last week, organised by the Power of the Macao Gaming Association. Mr Pereira Coutinho serves as the association’s honorary president. The group was officially established in December last year.
“The seven associations have unanimously shown their support to the proposal banning smoking inside casinos, including the removal of smoking lounges,” Mr Pereira Coutinho told GGRAsia.
Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng, earlier this month confirmed that the government policy is to introduce a complete smoking ban for the local gaming industry. He appeared to rule out the possibility of keeping smoking lounges on Macau casino mass-market floors.
The amended bill “should be ready within the first half of this year,” the secretary said on May 12.
Investment analysts have suggested that the new bill on tobacco control is “likely to negatively impact” both mass and VIP revenue. Macau’s gross gaming revenue monthly tally has fallen for 11 consecutive months judged year-on-year since June last year.
Mr Pereira Coutinho also said the associations will urge casino operators “to be more reasonable in issuing warning letters” to employees.
Labour activist group Forefront of Macao Gaming last month accused the city’s gaming operators of having increased control over dealers. The group said casinos had increased the number of “warning letters” issued to workers on minor mistakes, a claim denied by SJM Holdings Ltd chief executive Ambrose So Shu Fai.
“As far as SJM Holdings is concerned – and I think all the other gaming concessionaires as well – we have not been doing this,” Mr So said during a media luncheon on April 28.
Mr Pereira Coutinho also said the seven casino labour associations want workers to have proper channels to negotiate with casino operators, “namely a formal union to represent them”.
Macau’s labour associations have been rapidly gaining strength over the past year, garnering support from the growing number of people working for the city’s casinos.
“It’s important to introduce the trade union law and the right to collective bargaining to make sure that workers have the right tools to negotiate with their employers,” the legislator said.
Mr Pereira Coutinho has repeatedly submitted a trade union bill to the city’s Legislative Assembly without success. Legislators have vetoed the proposal for five times.
Macau’s Basic Law entitles Macau people to the freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike. However, there is no enabling legislation that allows trade unions to represent workers legally or to call strikes.
“Macau’s gaming industry is now in an adjustment period, which has a direct impact on workers. There has been a rise in the number of people from the industry seeking help,” said Mr Pereira Coutinho.
Dozens of ex-employees of Macau junket operators have asked for help from the government since December after the closure of some of the city’s VIP rooms, Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong Vai Tac said in February.
The Macau government announced in January the establishment of a task force on the gaming industry. The main goal was to address the issue of potential job layoffs in the sector following the decline in gross gaming revenue since June last year.
Among the associations that took part in last week’s meeting was the Forefront of Macao Gaming, a group that has been very vocal about the discontent among casino employees. The group, which organised several protests last year, has been demanding improved salaries and promotions for dealers.
Representatives at the meeting also discussed the need to ensure proper financial compensation for dealers who work during night shifts. Mr Pereira Coutinho said dealers should be entitled to an extra subsidy for night and shift work, “just like it is paid to workers in other industries”.
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