A survey conducted by a Macau gaming labour group during the city’s 15-day shutdown of casinos that ended on Wednesday, suggested fear of staff layoffs – and the risk of cuts to pay due to reduced work hours – were some key concerns of local gaming workers amid the novel coronavirus public health alert.
Gaming Employees Home – a sub-group of the traditionalist labour group the Macau Federation of Trade Unions – announced on Wednesday the results of a survey it said was conducted among 1,694 respondents. It was done via online questionnaires from February 10 to February 13. About 64 percent of the survey respondents said they were working as table games dealers, and the remaining respondents reported being in other gaming operations-related positions.
The survey was aimed at understanding such workers’ perceptions of their employment prospects amid the current coronavirus episode, Gaming Employees Home said.
About 53 percent of the respondents – in response to a question on the topic – said they were worried about staff layoffs in the industry this year. The survey indicated 75.5 percent of respondents feared cuts this year to their take-home pay and other benefits.
Most – i.e. 94.2 percent – of the survey respondents said they were not working between February 5 and February 19 inclusive – the period of the government-mandated shutdown in the city’s gaming operations. Such business started to reopen on Thursday.
Lei Wai Nong, the city’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, said on Monday the decision to reopen casinos had followed an assessment on risk to public health, and the importance of the casino sector to the city’s labour market, which he said employed around 84,000 people. At the start of the shutdown, the local government had asked the casino operators not to cut jobs or pay. All six operators are likely to face a public retender process for Macau gaming rights when their current licences expire in 2022.
A number of investment analysts have observed it would be hard for operators to keep costs at pre-crisis levels without a timely comeback of business.
Nonetheless Thursday’s phased reopening of the industry has received some criticism. Local labour groups New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association and Power of the Macao Gaming Association, told GGRAsia of staff-safety concerns about coronavirus transmission, and fears that take-home pay and holiday rights could be hurt amid the disruption to gaming business.
Gaming Employees Home said in a note at the end of its survey it hoped the city’s gaming operators would soon clarify all work arrangements applicable after the phased reopening period, and urged casino managements to pledge not to lay off employees.
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"The initial expectation for the October Golden Week was that the Cotai casino resorts might see an average occupancy rate at 80 percent to 90 percent. But that rate now might stand at just 50 percent to 60 percent... following Macau’s news of the new Covid-19 infection cases”
Andy Wu Keng Kuong
President of the Macau Travel Industry Council