About 150 employees at the Galaxy Macau casino protested outside the Cotai Strip resort where they work on Tuesday, protesting work requirements during and after Typhoon Hato, while also demanding other improvements to labor conditions.
The uncommon demonstration appears to have been sparked by Hato, a deadly storm that struck Macau in late August.
Casino workers across China’s gambling sector, not just from the Galaxy Macau, complained that they had been expected to turn up for duty despite danger from the raging typhoon, and were threatened with pay stoppages for being late or absent.
Rare Public Demonstration
Local news media reported that hundreds of Galaxy workers complained to Macau’s Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) about their working conditions during the storm, citing unpaid overtime and insufficient rest time, too.
Organized by the (poorly translated) labor group “Professional for Gaming of New Macau,” protestors aired several grievances beyond working conditions during Typhoon Hato.
Their demands included increased salary bonuses, removal of an unpopular internal staff rating system, and an end to the requirement that dealers must deal rounds of baccarat even when there are no customers at the table.
The labor group said they would give the Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment Group a week to respond before promising more industrial action if demands are not met.
Macau’s government is mulling the possibility of introducing a system that would link casino staffing levels to the degree of severity of any future disaster warning. At a meeting this week, Macau officials floated the idea of establishing mandatory response measures depending on an emergency’s severity.
Chinese Weather Warnings
China looks to a Hong Kong system of warning signals for determining the severity of its storms that is different from the five-category system that rates the strength of hurricanes.
Macau’s Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau Chief resigned the day after the Hato disaster, as he faced heavy criticism for leaving Hato’s warning signal at a No. 3 when it should have been a No. 10.
On any signal higher than No. 3, government offices shut down, schools close, planes are grounded, and ferry service is halted. Non-essential workers are supposed to be released from work (in a staggered manner to avoid clogging public transportation). Employers who require staff to remain working during a No. 8 or higher become responsible for providing their workers shelter and safety.
But earlier this week, China’s Commission Against Corruption cleared the weather bureau of wrongdoing after an investigation into whether the delay in issuing a maximum warning stemmed from an interest to protect the casinos’ commercial interests.
The bureau chief could’ve faced criminal charges in China for spreading false information.