The Macau Federation of Trade Unions (FOAM) handled some 1,014 cases related to labour rights in 2016, of which cases regarding labour affairs took up the majority, the union said yesterday in its annual review.
Legislator Ella Lei Cheng I, who is also the vice-president of FOAM, remarked that the number of cases registered a slight decrease compared to 2015.
According to the FOAM data, the number of cases related to labour affairs accounted for 40 per cent of the total, or 408 cases, involving 805 labourers. In particular, a significant number of cases were to do with construction workers, suggesting that many workers were unreasonably dismissed or owed payment, said Ms. Lei.
She also addressed the issue of unfair treatment between local and non-resident workers, with local workers being dismissed or requested to cease work.
“Last September or October, there was a group of over 100 local construction workers who had worked for a large-scale construction project at Cotai and whose jobs were halted by the subcontractor within a day,” the FOAM vice-director claimed.
She added that the issue of back pay in the construction industry was common last year, claiming that some workers also found their wages had been unreasonably deducted after finishing their work.
“There are many issues in which workers don’t know which contractor has actually hired them,” said Ms. Lei. “For instance, the major contractor claims they have paid the wages but the subcontractor says they haven’t received it.”
The unionist legislator thus suggests that the MSAR government develop regulations to discern and manage construction contracts, and consider implementing regulations to mandate that major contractors pay workers hired by subcontractors when there is a delay in wage payment.
She believes such a proposal would encourage workers to lodge complaints when issues arise and compel the main contractors to manage these situations better.
Job seeking difficulties
Meanwhile, Ms. Lei said that some job seekers are experiencing difficulty in finding jobs. She claimed her labour group had dealt with cases where the job seekers received no reply from the Labour Affairs Bureau after months of applications.
“There were cases in which the applicants didn’t receive any referral to other agencies after they applied at the government department,” said Ms. Lei, adding there were also cases where the applicants were referred to a job that offered a much lower salary than the market rate.
She claimed that many employees have also been forced to look for new jobs as many companies have shut down amid the city’s economic adjustment phase. Following the completion of major construction projects in the near future, the union’s vice-president expects more construction workers will face unemployment in the year ahead.
On the other hand, Ms. Lei pointed out that disputes relating to occupational injuries were also a significant issue last year.
Despite the implementation of the revised law on occupational injuries, the union vice-head said there had been many complaints about employers delaying payment of compensation to workers because of insufficient documentation.
“For example, an injured worker was advised to rest for 300 days, but the insurance company appointed another doctor and evaluated that the injury rate of the worker was not as high as the employee had previously reported,” said Ms. Lei. “And so there are disputes on the days allowed for recovery.”