May 1 is known as International Workers Day and commonly referred to as Labor Day in Asia. Two of Macau’s labor groups have plans to submit individual petitions to the government on May 1 for increasing the benefits and welfare of casino employees.

Macau’s Gaming Enterprises Staff’s Association, a labor group that is affiliated with the powerful Macau Federation of Trade Unions and the Forefront of Macao Gaming will petition the government to move forward with a blanket ban on smoking in all casino establishments. The Forefront of Macao Gaming (FMG) also plans on carrying out a march on May 1 to petition for more value added benefits for casino employees. (image above from previous Macau Labor protest)

Macau’s current smoking laws permit casinos to allow patrons to smoke in special airport-style smoking lounges. VIP customers are allowed to smoke at their tables in VIP rooms and this means that casino employees are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke. The Macau government is in the process of reviewing a blanket smoking ban and the two labor groups want to convey their support of the ban to the government.

Choi Kam Fu, the director general of the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff’s Association stated that casinos are not very strict in enforcing their smoking policies. While smoking lounges exist for mass market gamblers, they prefer to smoke at their tables and casino management often turn a blind eye, according to some reports, putting the health of their casino employees at risk.

This is one of the reasons why Choi is not in favor of smoking lounges and believes that the best solution is implementing a complete ban. The association is looking to gain the support of as many legislators as possible in order to get the blanket smoking ban passed.

FMG is pushing the government to put pressure on the casinos to ensure that they give local employees a salary increase and do not withdraw any of their benefits. While Macau’s casino industry has witnessed a slump during the last twenty four months, the two labor groups want Macau’s casinos to provide reasonable benefits to their employees.

In a statement, Ieong Man Teng, president of the FMG said “Although the economy now in Macau is not very good and the gaming industry has entered an adjustment phase, we are stressing that local worker employment [rights] should be protected at times like these, in particular for entry-level workers. We will also urge casino operators to announce pay rises for staff. We’re not asking to have a big pay rise but at least at a level that can ease pressure from inflation.”

Both labour groups will also request the government to push Macau’s casinos to make policy changes on their casino employee leave policies, increase workers insurance coverage and provide more promotion and learning opportunities to casino staff.