Macao's Gaming Company Settles Decades Long Labor Dispute

Macao's largest casino runner has agreed to pay 370 million patacas (46 million US dollars) to settle a two-decade long labor dispute, the Macao Labor and Employment Bureau, which acted as a conciliator between the employer and disgruntled workers, disclosed Wednesday.

The bureau confirmed that the Macao Gaming Company Limited (SJM)has transferred 60 million patacas (7.5 million US dollars) to thebureau's bank account as a gesture to clam down the dispute with some 6,000 workers formerly employed by its parental company, the Macao Tourism and Amusement Company (STDM), which had 40 years of monopoly of Macao's gaming market until March last year.

The workers laid off by STDM during a reshuffle filed to the bureau their complaints over the company's compensation in June last year, after SJM was founded to take over STDM's casino business in order to bid for the government's casino operation license, the release of which was a milestone for Macao to open the gaming market.

Shuen Ka Hong, director of the Labor and Employment Bureau, said that SJM has reconciled to compensate 260 million patacas (32.5 million US dollars) for the workers' weekly, annual and maternity leaves since 1984, when the Labor Law came into effect in Macao.

Although providing a relatively high salary, Macao's casinos operating 24 hours everyday did not pay extra allowance for the staff's losses of vacations.

According to Shuen, the remaining 100 million-plus patacas (12.5 million US dollars) will be appropriated in form of the year-endallowance to another 2,000 workers currently employed in SJM, who had the same complaint with STDM.

Although the compensation is still less than the worker's request, the bureau has convinced them to accept the disposal saying that this is the utmost it can do to bargain with the company. The bureau will begin to inform the workers to pick up their compensation from next Tuesday. The highest sum of compensation can reach 44,000 patacas (5,500 US dollars).

SJM employing over 10,000 people is still the dominant casino operator in Macao, as the other two casino operation license winners from last year's bidding, the Las Vegas-based Wynn Resort and the Hong Kong-invested Galaxy, are racing with each other building slick entertainment empires and recruiting personnel.

As a special administrative region, Macao is the only place in China, where casinos are legal business. The former Portuguese enclave with a history of more than 150 years in gambling has beenguaranteed by the Chinese Government to have independent executive,legislative and judicial powers after its return to the motherlandby the end of 1999. As early as 1847, a decree was enacted for franchised gambling business in Macao. In 1961 the then colonial government publicly sought concession for the gambling industry.



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