Casino workers threaten strikes

As the Chinese territory races to build eight new resorts in the next three years, labour strains look set to intensify: workers are demanding higher pay and threatening strikes at a time when operators face a labour shortage.

Las Vegas kingpins Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands and Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts together reported unexpected costs of US$50 million (S$62 million) last quarter for labour-related compensation at their Macau casinos, Reuters reported.

China's special administrative region boasts 35 casinos and relies on gaming taxes for more than 80 per cent of government revenues. Rigid regulations prohibit foreigners from working at the gaming tables, leaving operators little choice but to raise wages to attract and retain staff.

Workers at Galaxy were planning a protest yesterday at the company's resort after a Macau trade union last week submitted a petition alleging its salaries were "disrespectful" to some employees.

More than 1,000 workers protested last week outside Adelson's showpiece Venetian, accusing the company of poor wages and unfair promotions.


Galaxy and Sands China have expressed concern and vowed to resolve the problem.

"For both Galaxy and Sands we are not ruling out a strike," said Mr Ieong Man Teng, a baccarat dealer and president of Forefront of Macao Gaming, the labour group behind the recent protests.

Local media have reported the Venetian's anniversary on Aug 28 as a potential date for a strike.

Dealers in Macau earn an average of 17,000 to 18,000 patacas (S$2,650 to S$2,800) a month, about half the US$4,000 that Las Vegas dealers get.

Macau's labour unions have been rapidly gaining strength over the past year, garnering support from young people who have grown accustomed to job security and government handouts.

Last October, more than 10,000 casino dealers took to the streets in one of the territory's biggest protests. They called on the government to safeguard local workers after casino operators publicly despaired at the difficulty of expanding while adhering to Macau's labour conditions.

This article was first published on August 6, 2014.
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