A Macau labour group’s survey indicates that nearly 60 percent of 611 casino employees responding, stated they had “needed to take” some unpaid leave since the start of the pandemic crisis in the first quarter. Nearly 30 percent of respondents also noted that their employer had laid off workers, indicating most of those colleagues were non-resident staff, known locally as “blue card” workers.
At the advent of the crisis in early February, Macau’s Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, had urged the city’s six casino operators – all of whom face expiry of their current gaming rights in June 2022 and a public retender process associated with the expiry – to “fulfil their social responsibilities” regarding employment locally.
In June, Mr Ho appeared to soften that line somewhat, saying he hoped “local casino operators could “persist” in avoiding staff layoffs.
A number of investment analysts covering the gaming sector has said the government’s position in likelihood narrowed the options for the operators to cut costs by laying off local people.
The labour group’s survey was conducted in August – via online questionnaires and street interviews – by Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff’s Association, an affiliate of the city’s traditionalist labour group the Macau Federation of Trade Unions.
Association representatives gave a media briefing on Thursday regarding the poll results.
The labour group said 59.6 percent of responding casino employees stated that – since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – they had “needed to take” unpaid leave. Of these respondents, 90.7 percent said they have opted for a so-called “Care Leave” programme for their unpaid time off.
The city’s casino employees have been encouraged to take a mixture of paid and unpaid leave – described as a voluntary measure – to assist with cost-saving efforts.
Macao Polytechnic Institute gaming scholar, Ryan Ho Hong Wai, wrote in a recent paper that the “Care Leave” programme was one of several special-leave options offered by the city’s casino operators. Under it, gaming employees take one unpaid day off on a voluntary basis, with the entitlement to one day of additional paid leave, noted the scholar in his piece.
The survey done by Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff’s Association indicated that 28.3 percent of respondents said their employers had laid off workers, and most of these respondents noted those let go were non-residents.
Approximately 80 percent of the survey respondents said that they were “concerned” about their employment prospects, the association noted. Only 8.0 percent of the survey respondents said they were planning to change their job or move to a different sector within a year’s time.
Amongst the 611 responding casino employees, over 72 percent were in the age range of 35 to 54. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they were earning a monthly salary ranging between MOP15,000 (US$1,878) and MOP25,000.
Just over half the survey respondents said they were working either for casino operators Sands China Ltd or Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd: 28 percent of the respondents said they were with Sands China; 25 percent said they were working for Galaxy Entertainment.
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance