Several Macau gaming labour groups – including one usually seen as the most aligned with the local government’s thinking – have requested withdrawal of a law amendment proposal on compensatory leave for working any of four specific locally-designated mandatory holidays. The workers fear the proposal could leave them with less attractive compensatory leave rights than they enjoy under existing practices.
The holidays in question are: the Lunar New Year holiday, Cheng Ming Festival, the day after the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chong Yeong Festival.
The suggested amendment to the law would make it possible for the employee to choose – via a written agreement between the employer and the employee – to designate three mandatory holidays as normal work days. The employee would then be able to select three non-mandatory holidays as effectively, “mandatory” leave.
The Macau government’s proposal is part of a a wider revision to the Labour Relations Law.
For historical and administrative reasons, Macau has a holiday calendar that includes “non-mandatory” days as well as mandatory ones. Mandatory holidays usually include times when friends and family are also likely to be on leave.
“We’re disappointed with the government proposal,” said Lei Iok Po, director of labour group Power of Macau Gaming in comments to GGRAsia. His group voiced its opposition at a press conference on Monday and via a petition to the Labour Affairs Bureau on Friday.
Several other local labour groups, such as the traditionalist Federation of Trade Unions – usually the local labour grouping most amenable to local government public policy – and activist group New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association, also voiced similar views during the past week.
As stipulated by the current terms of the Labour Relations Law, those employees paid by the month and that are required to work on a mandatory holiday should be entitled to receive an additional day’s basic remuneration on top of their monthly pay, plus a compensatory rest day designated by the employer within 30 days following the performance of work. Such compensatory leave can be substituted – by agreement with the relevant employer – for a day’s basic pay.
Local labour groups fear that the proposed amendment would mean that workers who agree to work on mandatory holidays and to select three non-mandatory holidays to enjoy the respective mandatory leave, could have their benefits for working on a mandatory holiday reduced.
Mandatory vs non-mandatory
Currently Macau has 20 public holidays, 10 of which are mandatory holidays. The latter are: New Year’s Day; Lunar New Year’s Day; the second and third day of the Lunar New Year; Cheng Ming Festival; Labour Day; the day following Mid-Autumn Festival; China’s National Day; Chong Yeung Festival; and the Macau SAR Establishment Day.
The Labour Affairs Bureau said in a November 9 statement that its legal amendment proposal spells no change to the existing compensation terms for employees working on a mandatory holiday as stipulated by the Labour Relations Law.
“The purpose [of the legal proposal] is to allow employees from different nationalities and cultural background to negotiate with their respective employee, and shift the compensatory rest days to public holidays for working on designated mandatory holidays; that can also facilitate the companies in managing better their operation and human resources,” the Labour Affairs Bureau’s statement reads.
“We’re not very convinced by the [Labour Affairs] Bureau’s remarks. Because the existing compensatory terms for working on mandatory holidays are good enough for the employees,” Mr Lei remarked to GGRAsia, “We’re also not very sure that the workers have enough negotiation power if disputes happen [with the employer] once the government’s proposed arrangement is in practice.”
“The workers mainly fear that they cannot get the compensation [for working on a mandatory holiday] as promised by the [Labour Relations] law, if the companies go by the government proposal to give them an option to get a compensatory rest day on a public holiday,” Mr Lei said of his group’s concern, referring to the scenario of an employee’s getting a compensatory rest day on public holiday by having worked on three of the four mandatory holidays as the Macau government proposed.
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