Macau. It is a small special administrative region on the southern coast of China. It is located next to Guangdong province, 70 km southwest of Hong Kong, and 145 km from the city of Guangzhou. From the 20 of December of 1999, Macao is one of two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China. Until that date it had been under Portuguese administration for almost 450 years. As in Hong Kong, the Macao Basic Law guarantees the maintenance of the capitalist economic system and broad autonomy for at least 50 years. The judicial system established by Portugal, and Portuguese, although little is spoken, is held as an official language along with Chinese.
According to eningbo.info, the chief executive is appointed by the central government of the People’s Republic of China after selection by an electoral committee, whose members are elected by corporate subjects. The chief executive presides over a cabinet, between 7 and 11 members.
The Legislative Assembly is the legislative body of the territory consisting of 23 members where 8 members are directly elected, 8 appointed members representing electoral districts and 7 members appointed by the chief executive. The legislative assembly is responsible for making laws. The legal system is largely based on Portuguese law. The territory has its own independent judicial system, with a supreme court – The Final Court of Appeal (CFA). The judges are selected by a committee and appointed by the chief executive.
The legislation is not favorable to unions or workers who try to protect their rights. Freedom of association is guaranteed by law, but it does not cover public servants or migrant workers. Collective bargaining is not guaranteed.
Union rights under the law
Freedom of association: Freedom of association is guaranteed by section 4 of Law No.2 / 99 / M. Unions can be formed and anyone can join them. Section 45 of Decree-Law No. 24/89 / M prohibits the dismissal of workers for reasons of union membership or their union activities. Section 347 of the Penal Code is ostensibly a deterrent to prevent public authorities from interfering with workers’ freedom of association. However, new regulations developed by the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) require civil servants to obtain management approval before they can join associations or become prominent figures in labor associations, which is a violation of basic law. of the Macao Special Administrative Region.
No further information is available in this regard. There are no guarantees for collective bargaining: Section 6 of Decree-Law No. 24/89 / M stipulates that agreements concluded between employers and workers will be valid. However, it does not explicitly state that such agreements must be concluded or that they must involve collective bargaining.
Exclusion of public employees: Certain clauses such as sections 3 (2) and 3 (3) of Decree-Law No. 24/89 / M specifically exclude public employees and migrant workers from the agreed protection by labor legislation.
The union law is being discussed: After a proposal for a union law was vetoed in 2005, the unions continued to press for a new law to be passed. But the government has not yet provided a date for its establishment.
Amendments to the labor code not accepted: The second draft amendment to the Labor Code did not have the support of the unions, not even the largest pro-Beijing union, the General Association of Macau Workers. Although there were some progressive amendments such as longer maternity leave, the second bill also shortened the notice period in the event of dismissal and resignation and did not set the maximum working hours or the minimum wage. The amendments would not be approved and discussions will continue in 2007.
Trade union rights in practice
Many unions resemble traditional neighborhood associations rather, dedicated to promoting social and cultural activities rather than dealing with issues related to the workplace. Employer power: It is common practice in Macau that workers do not have formal employment contracts with their employers. In this way, employers have unlimited power to unilaterally modify the wages and working conditions of employees, or terminate their employment, which amounts to dismissal.
In the context of this excessive power of employers to act unilaterally and without any institutional legal framework for collective bargaining or even employment contracts, workers are easily intimidated and discriminated against for their union activities. The use of temporary contracts appears to have increased, reducing the number of workers covered by pensions, sick leave, paid vacations and other benefits, as well as effectively reducing salary expenses.
No protection for strikers: While the right to strike is supposed to be protected by law, there is no legal protection against retaliation by employers for participating in a strike. For this reason, strikers can be fired during or after the strike, regardless of the results of the negotiations.
Influence of China: The government of the People’s Republic of China has a strong influence on local union activities, including the direct selection of the leadership of the largest private sector organization, the Federation of Trade Unions. Virtually all six private sector unions belong to this pro- Beijing federation, which has undermined the independence of the trade unions, since the concern to support the policies of the central government, minimizing the unrest in the workplace, goes over the protection of the rights and interests of the members of the unions. There have been reports of intimidation of those who demonstrate against the Beijing government, both on politics and with regard to labor rights.
Civil society organizations are very weak in Macau and the growing influence of the central government, combined with growing prosperity for many residents, will undoubtedly help to reduce independent movements of workers.
Migrant workers: The number of migrant workers reached 60,000 in October 2006. Emigrants make up more than one-tenth of the population and 21 percent of the workforce. About 60 percent of the emigrants come from mainland China, 10 percent from Hong Kong, and the rest from Southeast Asia and other regions. The most basic forms of protection are denied them. While migrant workers generally have employment contracts, they do not have the right to collective bargaining or any effective legal recourse in the event of unjustified dismissal.
They are entitled to compensation if they are fired before the end of their contracts, but the common practice is for migrant workers to have short-term contracts whose non-renewal amounts to dismissal. The use of illegal (and therefore unprotected) labor is also a problem for the Macau authorities, who regularly conduct raids to combat the employment of illegal foreigners from Southeast Asia and mainland China. They work mainly in construction, in small and medium-sized companies and in domestic service. The high percentage of foreign workers is said to be eroding the bargaining power of local residents to improve working conditions and wages.
With the growing number of construction projects (essentially casinos and hotels) there has been a relaxation of regulations, allowing the importation of labor from the continent. Many unions and other groups have tried to ensure that the use of imported labor does not unduly affect the wage level of local workers and that migrants are also covered by union organizations.