Macau casino dealers take industrial action for first time

 The Japan Times

HONG KONG – Casino dealers working in one of the most popular casinos in the gambling hub of Macau started industrial action on Saturday for the first time in the Chinese territory as discontent over salaries and working benefits spreads.

More than 1,000 dealers working for SJM Holdings, the gaming company run by the family of former Macau king pin Stanley Ho, showed up late for their shift at the flagship Grand Lisboa casino while others have pledged not to work any overtime, a union leader told Reuters.

“SJM has mobilized additional manpower support to handle the situation and promised that today, if workers are willing to go to work, they will guarantee compensation three times the salary,” said Ieong Mang Teng, a baccarat dealer and head of labor group the Forefront of Macau Gaming.

The group has organised frequent protests over the past two months to demand higher pay and benefits.

SJM was not available for comment.

Macau is racing to build eight new resorts in the next three years but labor strains look set to intensify. Workers are demanding higher pay and threatening strikes at a time when operators already face a labor shortage.

Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal. The special administrative region boasts 35 casinos and relies on gaming taxes for more than 80 percent of government revenues.

Home to a population of just over 500,000 people, the former Portuguese colony has one of the world’s lowest jobless rates at 1.7 percent. Rigid labor regulations that prohibit foreigners from working at the gaming tables mean casino operators have little choice but to raise wages to attract and retain staff.