Macau Casino Workers on Unpaid Furlough, But Promised Paid Time Off

Macau is a ghost town. That’s after the local government ordered all nonessential businesses, including casinos, to fully shutter for at least a one-week period running through July 18. Casinos employ more people in Macau than any other sector. The economy of the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) relies greatly on its gaming industry, which […]

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Macau is a ghost town. That’s after the local government ordered all nonessential businesses, including casinos, to fully shutter for at least a one-week period running through July 18.

A man emerges from public transportation in front of Wynn Macau on July 4, 2022. Macau is currently on lockdown, and residents have been told to only venture outside of their residences for essential reasons. (Image: Reuters)
Casinos employ more people in Macau than any other sector. The economy of the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) relies greatly on its gaming industry, which was the world’s richest before COVID-19.

The six licensed casino operators were not part of Macau’s June decree commanding most other nonessential businesses to temporarily close amid an outbreak of coronavirus cases in the region. Local officials sought to lessen the economic blow of the virus by keeping casinos open and their workers on the job.

But with caseloads continuing to increase, Macau took the drastic step of powering down the SAR’s economic engine. The casinos were urged to embrace furlough policies that lessened the financial consequences levied on their staff.
GGRAsia reported today that the casino workers’ primary union — the New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association — says it is largely okay with the furlough conditions so far granted to workers.
‘7+1’ Arrangement
The Macau casino union says the six gaming companies are seeking to assure their own financial longevities amid the ongoing health crisis while simultaneously trying to help their workers weather the storm.
The union explains that most workers currently furloughed are not receiving pay, but have been assured one day of paid time off in the future per seven days they are off the job currently.
Commonly referred to as “7+1” in Macau, the policy emerged in February 2020 when the casinos were ordered to shut for 15 days. February 2020 was the last time the SAR mandated the casinos to suspend operations and lock their doors resort-wide.

Many workers find these incentives acceptable,” union reps Stephen Lao Ka Weng and Cloee Chao told GGRAsia. “Most casino workers do not have many complaints about the special stay-at-home incentive.”

The workers, union leaders say, understand that their employers are suffering, too. They have largely borne the brunt of the pandemic, as the casinos have stayed open since the February 2020 shutdowns until this week. That’s despite minimal guest traffic and greatly limited gaming business.
Future Worries
The New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association has expressed concerns regarding the near-term outlook for the nearly 60,000 workers employed by the six casino licensees. With their businesses continuing to suffer, union officials are nervous that the resorts’ employment levels could be reduced after the gaming operators receive new licenses, which is expected to happen before the year’s end.
“[Workers] fear that the current rights that they have will diminish, as their employers have been incessantly burning cash. They are afraid these rights will be gone once the gaming companies secure their new concessions, and they fear they might relive what had happened in 2008, when there were a lot of layoffs and various labor issues surfaced,” Lao and Cloee continued.
Through six months in 2022, gross gaming revenue (GGR) totaled $3.25 billion. Through the first half of 2019, the casinos won over $18.5 billion.
This week’s full cessation of gaming sent shares of the six publicly traded casino operators sliding. Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Melco Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, and SJM Resorts all lost significant value during Monday trading.
The biggest percentage loser as of this afternoon was Melco, which was down more than 12%.
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