Macau casino workers start industrial action to push for higher pay

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 August, 2014, 11:28am

Macau casino croupiers yesterday began an unprecedented campaign of industrial action for better working conditions - the first such move in the former Portuguese enclave's history.

It came as 200 people took to the streets to protest against soaring house prices, as an increasingly restive city prepared for Fernando Chui Sai-on's re-election as leader running unopposed for a second term today.

Yesterday's action by the casino workers - which included a refusal to work overtime - could hint at some of the problems that Chui might face in his second term. The gaming floor discontent sent a ripple through the industry, causing casino stocks to fall going into the weekend.

It follows a demonstration last week by about 1,400 casino workers, who marched through the city to demand better conditions, and comes in the wake of a series of public protests in recent months.

Today a Sunday Morning Post investigation reveals that behind the glitzy, ultra-modern facade of the new Macau, lies a deeply conservative and entrenched power structure.

An exhaustive search of Macau's company and land registry records has not only confirmed the unassuming, publicity-shy Chui as a political front-man for one of the most powerful families in Macau; it has also revealed a web of business, political and societal connections that pose questions about the future of the city as it enters a new phase in its development.

In spite of the increasing social tensions that Chui had to face in his first term, his re-election as chief executive of China's only other special administrative region is in no doubt.

"The current political system is made to maintain in power those from the oligarchy," said António Katchi, a legal expert and professor of public administration at the Macau Polytechnic Institute.

Social affairs commentator Leung Kai-yin said: "Chui Sai-on's election benefits not only himself, but also his family and the other traditional families."

A 400-member committee will select the chief executive today, and - in spite of demands from democrats - there are no guarantees that universal suffrage will be implemented by 2019.