Labour Law reform regressive, conservative: local lobby group

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Issue 329, Page 2
Word count: 555
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The New Macau Association will stage a public assembly at Iao Hon Park on May 1 in bid to draw more attention on the Labour Law’s reform proposal which the association said was “regressive” and “conservative”.

The assembly will be held between 1pm and 2.30pm and the association will afterwards join the rally initiated by resident Ung Kam Fong that will also begin at Iao Hon Park in Areia Preta.

The Legislative Assembly has been discussing the draft bill since May last year and according to the association, it should serve as a legal system that “guarantees the minimum standards for labour relations”.

Lawmaker and chief member of the association, Ng Kuok Cheong, said during a press conference yesterday that the new law could not further assure the rights of labourers, by contrast it showed “no improvement but regressive conditions”.

“Because of the formation of the Assembly, lawmakers who come from the primary class only account for a small number, and so the proposal tends to be more conservative,” Mr Ng said.

According to the association, the reform proposal allows “too many replacements of mutual agreement” which could force the labourers to accept some “unjustified agreements” under the dominant role imposed by employers.

The existing Labour Law restricts a pay cut must have to be approved by employee himself as well as the Labour Affairs Bureau.

But the association pointed out that the new regulations did not try to impose more limitations and the government even abandoned the role of “gatekeeper” that “damaged labour rights”.

The proposal also allows employers, in accordance to their own judgments, to deduct compensation out of employee’s salary.

By contrast, the existing regulations state that no deduction can be performed unless it is a compensation judged by the court, the association said the move was “unacceptable” as labourers would not have the right to defense themselves.

Reasons that constitute to “justified sackings” has increased from three to 11 in the draft bill and the association said most of them did not contain any objective measures such as “leading a loss in company’s profit”, “deliberately damage company’s property interests” and “deliberately reduce or affect their own [employees] productivity”.

In addition, the association urged for the “minimum wage” regulation which they said the government should have set out a decade ago when the “Outline of Employment Policy and Labour Rights” was introduced.

Although the new law could penalise employers 2,000 patacas to 10,000 patacas for outstanding wages, the association said this “deliberate act” could not be suppressed without incriminating it as stated in the reform.

During the 1980s when the Labour Law was introduced, Macau’s economy mainly relied on export and thus the law regulates labourers of such industry have to work no less than 16 days a month or 72 days in four consecutive months, otherwise the labourer would be deemed as “being sacked unlawfully” and compensation has to be paid by the employer.

Due to the city’s changes all over the years, the association said the minimum working days restriction should be expanded to all labourers who did not get paid by months.

As well, the government was urged to launch a payout system for long-term servicing employees upon their retirement as the central provident fund scheme could not provide practical aid for middle-aged or elderly employees, the association said.

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