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Labor Law must “protect wages” and “trade unions”

Viviana Chan

Since the beginning of the pandemic, unpaid leave has been issued in series, transforming labor disputes into a relevant and commented topic in the community. Lei Cheng I, a deputy who has always been concerned about labor rights, warns: despite the 2020 “Law on labor relations” having undergone seven amendments, with the current economic recession, and the long years of legislation in force, it is time to extensive review be carried out.

– The Macao SAR government organized a public consultation on the “Trade Union Law” last year, the final report of which was published in mid-June of this year. What is your opinion about the Law?

Lei Cheng – Firstly, I agree with the transitional provisions mentioned in the Trade Union Law, which allow already constituted workers’ associations to register as trade unions, following the due legal requirements. And they also allow unions of the same type – or of a different type – to form federations. On the one hand, respecting History and the contribution of patriotic union associations, it is a beneficial measure for the continuous work of these associations. Its service to workers promotes stability and social development.

However, the results of the public consultation show that the population still has some reservations regarding the definition of special rules for civil servants, health professionals and workers of public transport service institutions.

– Some people complain that the consultation document ignores the right to strike, weakening the rights and functions of trade unions. do you agree?

L.C. – The Union Law should be more specific with regard to the protection of workers’ associations and participation in union associations. It is therefore proposed that the following points be regulated:

  • Prohibition of the employer preventing or obstructing, in any way, the constitution or participation of workers in union associations;
  • Prohibition of the employer to practice discriminatory acts or other acts that harm the rights and interests of the worker, for organizing or participating in union activities, especially through unfair dismissals;
  • Prohibition of the employer to practice discriminatory acts or other acts that harm the rights and interests of the worker, for organizing or participating in union activities;
  • Definition of a penalty mechanism for employers who do not respect the requirements stipulated above.

– Since the beginning of the outbreak, labor issues have refocused attention due to the need for economic adjustments. And even with the increase in the number of workers forced to take leave without pay, the gray area remains. Isn’t there a better solution to protect employment? How should the government protect labor rights?

L.C. – With the 2020 revision by the Assembly, seven changes were made, including the introduction of paternity leave, extension of maternity leave and overlapping leaves. The Law is more than a decade old, and although it is possible to complete the review, wouldn’t it be better to have a more extensive reformulation, which included, for example, exploitation, compensation for suspension of activity and recovery of wages in arrears?

– Since the seven revisions in 2020, two years have passed. How can the government improve legislation? For example with mechanisms for recovering wages in arrears, as I just asked?

L.C. – The government needs to review and adjust the Law, which does not penalize employers for unpaid wages during the time the complaint is handled by the Directorate of Labor Affairs Services. It should accelerate the recovery of these wages, as well as reinforce penalties for late wages and protect workers’ rights.

There is also a need to strengthen support for workers with outstanding wages. For employers who have not closed their business or declared bankruptcy, and who continue to be in arrears for a long period of time, there should be a mechanism in place to ensure that workers receive their wages. Authorities should recover these amounts as soon as possible to ensure that employers do not evade their responsibility.

There are also laws that protect suspensions from work, the holiday regime and maternity leave. As society develops, it is recommended that the government organize several studies in preparation for the new phase of legal review.

– With the approval of the new Gaming Law in June, one of the main current concerns concerns the rights of workers in this industry and corporate social responsibility. What should be the government’s next step to protect current and future workers? Greater protection for sites?

L.C. – I am glad to hear that the government has listened to the voices of the labor sector and created a labor credit guarantee scheme. However, specific worker protection clauses should be included in the next concessions, especially for employment problems in contracting companies, dubbed “satellite casinos”, with casinos and VIP lounges, for a stable transition.

– What other improvements to the retirement system for workers in the gaming industry do you consider necessary?

L.C. – Even with the legal stipulation of social responsibility of these concessionaires, we propose that clauses be included in the new concession agreements that give priority to local workers, that oblige these companies to develop the skills of their employees, as well as benefits offered to them and a program of pensions. In addition to continuing the policy of not hiring outside workers for positions such as dealers and game bankers, the proportion of local workers in other positions and management location should be gradually increased to ensure career prospects in this industry. Through the healthy development of the gaming industry, we will be able to create local talent in a number of professional fields.

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