Grant Bowie, chief executive of MGM China Holdings Ltd, on Wednesday played down the idea that casino floor staff from the company had taken part in industrial action on October 3 and 4.
He said: “They [MGM Macau casino floor workers] haven’t had industrial action, but they have raised issues with us. We’ve continued to have dialogue via our team. We’ve run a couple of ballots on a couple of issues that seemed to be sensitive. And we are progressively communicating back to the team on those ballots but also on other issues they raised with us.”
Mr Bowie spoke to GGRAsia on the sidelines of the launch of MGM Macau Oktoberfest 2014 at the downtown casino property.
On October 3, the Forefront of Macao Gaming said some MGM Macau staff were working to rule, some reporting late and some calling in sick that day and the following day. The labour activist group has recently had a high profile campaign of rallies and demonstrations against Macau casino operators, calling for improved wages and conditions for casino dealers and supervisors.
A group of about 200 people – that Forefront of Macao Gaming said were MGM China casino workers – had met with representatives from the city’s Labour Affairs Bureau on September 15 to complain about the company’s pay and benefit policies. They also held a protest late that month, demanding higher salaries and changes to the company’s bonus policies.
Mr Bowie on Wednesday refuted the idea that the company’s current dialogue with staff was a reaction to Forefront of Macao Gaming’s recent campaign.
“I would say none of the issues we are currently addressing were addressed because of specific actions taken by the workforce,” stated the CEO.
“That [such an approach] would be an unhealthy situation and I don’t think it would be the right solution for all of the team. What we did realise is that we needed to find a mechanism for the broad cross-section of all of our team to be able to voice their comments, and to be able to take ballots on issues which they saw as being important.”
Asked how the company could avoid confrontation with workers or workers’ representatives, Mr Bowie added: “I don’t think you should ever talk about avoiding the rights of [those in] the workplace to voice comments. The reality is that [with] the vast majority of the issues raised, we will continue to dialogue internally and we will resolve those issues internally.”
In other comments, Mr Bowie confirmed that MGM Macau has had three smoking lounges – devoid of tables or slot machines – operational since October 9.
Since October 6, Macau has banned smoking in all main floor areas of casinos, instead asking smokers to confine their nicotine intake to airport-style smoking lounges physically separated from the main floor
On October 10, the city’s Health Bureau issued a list of 17 gaming venues that had been authorised to operate smoking rooms, but didn’t mention MGM Macau.
“We have had our smoking lounges operational from Thursday last week,” stated the MGM China CEO. “We have three pods [smoking lounges].”
He added: “It’s the Health Bureau’s prerogative to update the list. We respect the fact they are the department that has issued the notices.”
Asked if the company would apply for more smoking lounges, Mr Bowie said: “We are considering the situation at the moment.”
Asked additionally if the mooted closure of MGM Macau’s Lion’s Bar was linked to the need for more space for smoking rooms on the main casino floor, Mr Bowie said it wasn’t.
“The Lion’s Bar [issue] is part of the whole refresh of the property,” he told us. “And what we need to do is look at the whole context of activities, not just in the Lion’s Bar but also in the G.P. [Grande Praça atrium at MGM Macau] with all the restaurants. We’ve got to plan over the next three to four years to redo all the restaurants; concentrate all of our non-gaming activities in and around the Grande Praça,” Mr Bowie added.
Mr Bowie declined to give details about the comments by Jim Murren, chairman of MGM China’s parent MGM Resorts International, who said MGM Macau was moving some gaming tables from VIP areas to mass-market ones.
But he stated: “We’re reassessing how best to reposition the tables under this new environment [on mass floor smoking] we’re now in.”
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Requests for new smoking lounges submitted so far by Macau gaming operators to the government