Workers unions succeed in cost control plan negotiation with Venetian

Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Issue 572, Page 4
Word count: 822
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

After the intervention of two local workers unions, The Venetian Macau Ltd yesterday compromised to reduce the pay cut limit by 3.4 percent to 13.3 percent, along with four other conditions in order to protect the interest of the 6,800 affected gaming operations workers.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL), the Macau Federation of Trade Unions and the Macau Gaming Enterprises Personnel Association, which gave a new definition to the work time arrangements proposal presented by the company on December 22.

The four parties reached a consensus yesterday after several times of negotiations which saw five changes or new conditions committed by The Venetian Macau Ltd as part of the cost control plan which will come into effect tomorrow.

Although the working hours will still be adjusted from 48 hours to 40 hours per week, the company agreed to change the salary calculation method according to the labour law so that the pay cut can be narrowed down from 16.7 percent to 13.3 percent.

At the same time, the company promised not to lay off any of the affected gaming operations employees, who are all Macau residents, by citing the same reason of “having been affected by the global financial turmoil”.

Since the normal working hours will be decreased to 40 hours or five working days a week, the company said any extra hours will be translated into overtime pay as calculated according to the labour law.

Hence, the signing also saw The Venetian Macau Ltd will ensure that all the overtime works, except voluntarily rejected by the staff, must be shared among the gaming operations workers who have already accepted the pay cut measures.

As well, the company is prohibited from recruiting new staff to hold any gaming operations positions such as dealers, pit supervisors, cashiers and slot machines attendants before the cost control measures are lifted.

In addition, when the economy starts to show signs of upturn, the company shall immediately restore the workers’ original salary level and working hours, or assist them to be transferred to better positions if the company opens new businesses in Macau or other regions.

Within nine months to one year after the cost control measure is in force, The Venetian Macau Ltd agreed to carry out a review in order to restore the previous salary level and work time arrangements as early as possible.

Meanwhile, the company will cooperate with the government to organise tailor-made promotion training programs for the nearly 7,000 affected local employees so that after completing and passing the courses, they can be promoted to hold mid and senior level positions released following the dismissal of their fellow expatriate workers.

In terms of the promotion training, the Macau Federation of Trade Unions and the Macau Gaming Enterprises Personnel Association requested the government to cancel the imported worker quotas of the corresponding positions so as to allow qualified locals to fill up the vacancies.

Director of the DSAL, Shuen Ka Hung, said yesterday they would fully comply with the law which defined imported labourers as “supplementary” to the local work force.

The memorandum of understanding thus also saw the government promise to cut the non local worker quota of relevant positions after the training programs are proved to be effective.

Daniel Shim, the Asia senior vice president of human resources of The Venetian Macau Ltd, denied the newly added conditions and changes showed a lack of prior communications with the staff and workers unions, but added that the adjusted proposal was a “satisfactory outcome”.

Since the work time arrangements were presented to the 6,800 gaming operations staff on December 22, Mr Shim said about 90 percent of them had already signed the agreement letters.

Today will be the last day for the affected workers to decide whether or not to accept the company’s cost control plan, and their signatures will be submitted to the DSAL afterwards.

“With the support of the government, the federation and the gaming association, I would think that most of the employees will sign up and support the proposal,” Mr Shim said after signing the memorandum yesterday.

“At this point I’m not prepared to fire anyone. I’m hoping that we will all come to an agreement,” he added.

According to the human resources executive, the company had already reduced 23 percent or 500 personnel of its expatriate labour force including 100 personnel from the gaming management.

Mr Shuen said as the key problem of the company at present laid on the 1,000 redundant gaming operations workers originally intended for the now suspended Parcels 5 and 6 projects on the Cotai Strip, “discussion should not be focused on why the same cost control measures were not implemented for the management personnel”.

The Venetian Macau Ltd was the second gaming enterprise, following Crown Macau, to propose cost control measures involving pay cuts and less working hours for employees amid the global economic downturn.

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