Group of migrant workers who faced maltreatment appeals to CE

Petition letter submitted to the CE yesterday

A group of 18 non-resident workers has submitted a petition to the Chief Executive (CE) requesting assistance regarding the alleged abuse they have faced while being employed in a cleaning service company. 

Several weeks ago, a group of around 30 workers from Tai Koo Cleaning Service Company sought assistance from the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) after the local firm failed pay their wages for the past three months. 

The minimum wage for local cleaners and security guards hired by property management service suppliers or those working in residential buildings is MOP6,656 per month. The daily salary is calculated on the basis of an expected maximum of eight hours work per day.

However, for several dozen of these workers employed by the company, receiving wages was always a long shot – despite having worked, sometimes without days off.

According to the DSAL, non-resident employees working in Macau are entitled to the rights and protections in the Labour Relations Law and the Law for the Employment of Non-resident Workers. 

However, these workers have endured months of no wages, while living here in the city, amid the pandemic.

Yolly Behuco, one of the laid off workers who filed a report with DSAL, has shared with the Times the treatment she and her colleagues experienced. 

Behuco has been employed since June 2021 to provide cleaning services to the company’s different clients such as hotels, casinos and other private companies.

However, since she began working, along with the other 17 workers, they have not received duplicate copies of their employment contracts, duly signed by the employers, an act that violates the labor law.

Despite some of them having to work a 12-hour shift, they have only been paid 20% instead of the 50% stipulated by law, as cited in the petition letter.

Behuco was outsourced to a local hotel back in June 17 to June 31 2021, where she worked an average of 12 hours per day – yet was only paid MOP2,703 – far less than her basic salary of eight hours of work. 

Labor disputes among non-resident workers have been ongoing in the city. The Times previously reported that labor disputes filed by non-resident workers have recorded a slight increase in the first quarter of this year compared to last year, despite the decreasing number of migrant workers in the city.

Through the mediation of DSAL, the company has offered to pay a month’s wages to the employees. However, many of them have refused as the offer is insufficient, and it does not do justice to what they have endured. 

Though they believed they had encountered the worst, little did they know that the worst was yet to come.

“18 of us were terminated by the company after we complained to the DSAL. They have fired us without formally notifying us. Their notice was only through a text message. We didn’t even know that they had cut our blue-cards and the notice on that came while we were working,” said Behuco. 

“They even gave me 18 warning letters. Never did I receive one since I worked for them” she lamented.

Currently, all of them are under a special authorization to stay visa.

None of them could leave as their employers had not provided for an airfare – another action contrary to the city’s regulations. 

Aside from being unpaid for the past three months, facing uncertainty on where these filed cases would lead, these non-resident workers are facing a six-month ban, meaning they are forbidden to seek a new job for the next six months as they have “ended” their contracts abruptly. 

According to the law, if the employee resigns before the expiry of the term of the contract, he/she won’t be granted a new work permit within six months, unless the resignation was for a just cause.

“We were only fighting for what we deserve. How can we survive on zero wages for three months?” Behuco lamented. 

“We underwent the recent partial lockdown with barely nothing, not even paying rents for the past three months,” she added.

According to their petition, the company has three managers, yet only one was allowed to sign checks. It was alleged that the manager was on the mainland, therefore their salaries are being withheld.

They continued to work under the threat that if they did not do so, they would be fired. 

According to the law, as cited in DSAL, if a written termination notice is not given, or is not given within 30 days, and the employer dismisses an employee, the employee shall be entitled to compensation equivalent to twice the amount of statutory compensation.

However, for these workers, such compensation is deemed to be nearly impossible given what they have already gone through.

For them, what matters now is that they get paid for the months during which they worked hard. After all, most of them also have families who rely on them back home.

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