Beijing’s anti-corruption crackdown on Macau’s casino industry over the past 12 months has resulted in huge losses for casinos as high rollers have preferred to take their business to neighboring countries like the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Macau’s casinos are now looking for ways to reduce their overhead and right at the top of the list are the wages they pay every month to casino workers. From Jan 2015, casinos have slowly been sacking casino staff in an attempt to reduce their overhead and run operations with limited staff. Hundreds of casino workers now find themselves without a job and they are unable to find new work as the situation is the same in just about every casino in Macau.
The government of Macau has recognized the increase in unemployment and has plans to roll out new training programs to re-train these casino workers and provide them with a new set of skills that will enable to them find a new career. However, casino workers have been less than impressed with the government’s strategy and decided to gather together on Labor Day to protest and voice their opinion.
Thirteen trade unions joined forces and carried out a total of nine protests in an effort to get the government of Macau to take action on a variety of issues including an immediate implementation of a total smoking ban, education, health care, and what is seen as harassment from pit bosses issuing excessive warning letters.
The protests saw close to 2000 people gather in places like the Tap Seac Square and the Northern District before organizing a march to the government headquarters to personally petition Chui Sai On (Dr Fernando Chui), who is the Chief Executive in Macau.
Ieong Man Teng is a part of the Forefront of Macau Gaming and a leading activist who is surprised at how Macau’s Casinos have treated their employees. He stated that casinos are looking for the smallest reasons to find fault with the employees and issue warning letters. Teng says his research reveals that casinos are currently issuing an average of 60 warning letters per day to blacklist an employee. He believes that casinos are currently targeting front-line workers and have asked supervisors to carefully monitor their team members and highlight all of their mistakes on a daily basis.
If the casinos have documented proof of an employee’s mistakes, then they have the right to terminate their employment due to incompetence. This is a tactic being used by casinos now to downsize and reduce their overhead. Casino workers would like the government of Macau to look into such practices and ensure that they do not get further exploited.
Labor Day protests in 2007 eventually turned violent. In that incident riot police say that five shots were fired into the air, however protesters and witnesses dispute that assertion. A motorcyclist was shot in the neck but survived. Macau Security Police chief Lei Siu-peng said 10 people were arrested and 21 police officers were injured in the 2007 riot. Dozens of protesters and police were injured in the 2006 Macau May Day protests as well, which also turned violent.