Venetian Macao lays off 500 staff

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2008, 12:00am

The Venetian Macao casino has laid off 500 employees and proposed fewer working hours for its gaming staff, which a unionist fears will translate into shrinking pay packets.

Workers across all levels were affected by the sackings, which were announced yesterday, including 100 managers.

None are Macau residents.

The number represents 2 per cent of workers employed by Venetian Macao, which is owned by US casino operator Las Vegas Sands. The resort hotel opened in August last year.

Most of the 500 affected employees received a letter of intent for Sands jobs in Singapore.

They may take up equivalent positions at Marina Bay Sands that are not occupied by Singaporeans, subject to approval of the city state's government.

For the remaining gaming staff, mostly dealers, the company proposed cutting their work week from 48 hours to 40 starting next month. That would amount to salary reductions of more than 16 per cent, according to Hong Kong unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan.

'The company may say it's a short-term measure ... but employees do not know when they can work 48 hours again,' Mr Lee said.

The cut was aimed at retaining 1,000 gaming employees who could not be transferred to four major hotels also owned by Sands in the Cotai resort district, the company said. It did not unveil any measures for the remaining non-gaming staff.

Sands halted development of the four hotels - the Sheraton, Shangri-La, Traders and St Regis, known as parcels 5 and 6 - in the middle of last month. More than 9,000 workers were sacked, including 4,000 from Hong Kong.

Along with the shorter work week, the company proposed moving tips received by gaming employees into their basic salaries.

Transferring the tips could help employees earn more during holidays, Mr Lee said. 'In contrast to the 16.7 per cent pay cut, that is a little favour to employees.'