The recent demonstrations against Macau’s gaming giants are just preliminary “skirmishes” ahead of a potentially bigger battle between workers and casino operators, Macau lawmaker Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong said.
If the Macau government gives in to casino operators’ demand to allow non-local workers into certain jobs — such as croupiers — a full-fledged battle will break out, Ng warned, according to Apple Daily.
Two mass protests against Galaxy Entertainment Group (00027.HK) and Sands China (01928.HK) were held last week in Macau as workers demanded better pay and promotion systems at the two gaming corporations.
Labor group Forefront of Macau Gaming, which organized the protests, said over a thousand workers participated in the rally against Galaxy while about 700 joined the anti-Sands march.
They were only two of the eight demonstrations by casino workers held so far in this year. Forefront of Macau Gaming has vowed to take Sands China workers into a strike towards the end of this month if their demands are not met.
“The recent demonstrations are a warning signal. If casino operators do not respond, a battle will break out in 2016,” Ng said.
He noted that Macau’s six gaming giants will see their licenses expire in 2020. In order to secure fresh licenses, all of them are building new casino-resorts in the Cotai Strip area. With the new casinos, gaming facilities in Macau are expected to double by 2016.
“Casino operators will then use insufficient labor as an excuse to import more workers… This will certainly lead to more tensions between casino operators and [local] workers,” Ng said.
Macau has leapfrogged Switzerland to become the world’s fourth richest territory per person, trailing only Luxembourg, Norway and Qatar, according to a World Bank report released last month.
The city’s per capita gross domestic product reached 708,000 patacas (US$91,376) last year, an 18.4 percent jump from the year before.
But Macau residents and casino workers haven’t benefited enough from the gaming industry, activists complain. Going by World Bank figures, people in Macau should secure 59,000 patacas each month, but the monthly pay of an average croupier is only about 20,000 patacas.
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