Tam: Sands’ imported workers not yet approved

Thursday, November 4, 2010
Issue 1156, Page 3
Word count: 527
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen stressed yesterday that the Government will not make “prior promises” to any enterprises assuring how many imported workers will be approved, adding that there is never exceptions and all applicants will be treated equally.

He made the remarks in response to foreign media reports which said Sands’ parcels 5 and 6 construction on the Cotai Strip has been granted 5,000 non-local workers.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Social Security Fund’s president, the secretary said all imported worker applications need to go through a “very strict” assessment process, and the Government will never promise in advance how many workers an enterprise will get eventually.

Tam disclosed that the Human Resources Office is still processing the application for the two Cotai plots from Sands, which include both skilled and non-skilled workers.

He said it is hard to estimate when a result will be ready as the office is also dealing with “a lot of applications [from other enterprises]” at the same time.

Yet, he declined to disclose exactly how many non-local workers Sands has applied for. “The number isn’t important… but should be around a few thousands… the most important is how many of them will be approved,” he said.

The labour shortage has pushed completion of Sands’ 5 and 6 project to December 2011. Recently, Sands China’s acting CEO Michael Leven said the company hopes to have an answer by the end of the year to its efforts to hire more construction workers. Previously, he had said that the company would need around “10 to 11,000 workers” when construction reaches the peak point.

Meanwhile, the secretary predicted that the number of imported workers in Macau will see a growth in the year to come, since “the economy is starting to pick up rapidly and the demand for labour force is also increasing”.

“The Government will adjust the non-local worker number but we will continue to retain our priorities that local people’s employment will be protected and median income level will not be affected,” he added.

When the global financial crisis started to hit Asia in September 2008, the number of imported workers in Macau dropped from 105,000 to around 75,000 in 2010.

Tam said the 1:1 local to non-local worker ratio at large-scale construction sites has “generally been achieved” over the past year, and the Government is satisfied with the implementation.

Sands has other woes to conned with at the moment with former Sands China chief executive officer Steve Jacobs reportedly suing Las Vegas Sands (LVS) for wrongful dismissal. Among his accusations, he claims that chairman Sheldon Adelson ordered that “secret investigations be performed” on high-ranking Government officials so that any negative information obtained could be used to force them to “thwart government regulations/initiatives viewed as adverse to LVS’ interests”.

The secretary responded yesterday staying that it is a lawsuit between Jacobs and Adelson and it was not proper for him to comment.

Yet, he reiterated that “any person who wants to use improper means to achieve the goal of getting more gaming tables or imported workers must not be able to succeed”.

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