The latest of a series of protests by casino workers in Macau not only appears to display a greater willingness to demand better working conditions, but also a growing political awareness as the former colony looks for answers on how to improve governance.
On Monday, more than 1,000 casino workers marched through Macau streets stopping at some of the territory’s biggest casinos such as Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment Group and SJM Holdings. They are demanding a 10 percent pay increase for all workers below the manager’s level, a restriction on hiring foreign workers, and an extension of the smoking ban to cover the entire casino.
The demonstration is said to be the largest of the seven protests held by casino workers this year. The largest on record took place last October with some 3,000 angry workers.
The protests are happening against a backdrop of some political unrest in the city. Over the weekend, an unofficial referendum was scheduled to be held on democracy, one similar to the referendum held by Hong Kong earlier this year. However, local police partially shut down the polls, even though participants could still vote online.
The unofficial referendum poses two questions: whether there should be universal suffrage for the 2019 election for chief executive, and if voters have confidence in Fernando Chui, the current chief executive and only candidate on the ballot for this Sunday’s vote.
For their part, the casino workers union says it is strongly behind the unofficial referendum, which has so far received 6,000 votes. In comparison, Hong Kong, which has a much larger population, received 800,000 in its referendum earlier this summer.