Laying off locals first suspected at workplaces

In his recent written inquiry, lawmaker Sulu Sou pointed out that some companies are asking their Macau resident employees to take unpaid leave while continuing to employ non-resident workers in the same positions.
The lawmaker said that this practice has affected those in frontline positions, such as salespeople, security guards and waiting staff.
The latest employment survey conducted by the government’s Statistics and Census Service determined the city’s unemployment rate to be 3.4%, amounting to a jobless population of 9,700 people.
Similarly, 10,600 people working in gambling, construction and retail industries are facing underemployment, meaning that these workers are not being fully utilized at their jobs.
Yesterday, a report by local Chinese newspaper Macao Daily News also claimed that local employees are being swapped out for non-resident workers in certain workplaces. It reported that a manager at a Cantonese restaurant admitted to cutting work time for local workers to strike a “balance between the local and non-resident workforce.”
The owner of a retail shop told the newspaper that employers cutting the working hours of local employees was “involuntary.” The owner said that it is done in order to preserve the employment of local workers, while retaining the quotas of hiring foreign labor.
In addition, the Chinese newspaper interviewed one hotel employee, who said they were accumulating increasing amounts of unpaid leave after the complete cancellation of quarantine requirements for non-resident workers from the mainland.
In the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak in the city, the government barred non-resident workers from entering Macau, before slightly relaxing the measures which require those from Guangdong to undergo quarantine before crossing the border. Currently, non-resident workers from the mainland must possess a valid Covid-19 nucleic acid negative test result and must not have been out of mainland China in the preceding 14 days in order to cross the border.
The practice is also reportedly affecting the income of local workers. The hotel worker told the newspaper that they receive only a few thousand patacas per month now. Although local workers are understanding of the challenges facing their employers, the local workforce is growing increasingly disappointed with the practice of replacing local workers with non-resident workers.
It is a legal stipulation that the working opportunities of Macau residents are prioritized over foreign labor.
In his inquiry, Sou pointed out that the practice of replacing local workers with non-resident ones in the same positions is against the stipulation and governance principle of “prioritizing local workers” and “the supplementary nature of non-resident workforce”.
Employers, however, think otherwise. They fear that when the situation recovers, they will not have a sufficient workforce to maintain operations if they choose to dismiss non-resident workers now. That is because of fears that the government will tighten the issuance of new working permits for non-local workers.
Lawmaker Sou said it was problematic to require local employees to take unpaid leave for an indefinite period.
He stressed that employees are always disadvantaged when they are asked to take unpaid leave, adding that it takes a lot of courage to stand up and report employers’ malpractice.
The lawmaker is now asking whether the government will consider amending the Labour Relations Law to allow employees to terminate their contracts with compensation after certain days of unpaid leave required by their employers.
At present, employers do not need to give notice to the Labour Affairs Bureau when they require their workers to take unpaid leave. However, the labor authority must be notified of pay deductions. Sou hopes the government can change the law so that both practices require notification submitted to the labor authority.

Categories Macau