Part-time Perks A Puzzle

Nobody seems to be happy with the new labour legislation. As applied to part-time workers. Diminishing rights, no evident benefits for employers, and unforeseen consequences are clouding the prospects of the law.

Representatives from both workers and employers cannot see the exact positive outcome for the laying out of regulations for part-timers in the wake of the recent public consultation for the Labour Relations Law announced by the Labour Affairs Bureau last Saturday.
Ella Lei Cheng I, legislator and Vice-president of Macau Federation of Trade Unions is(FOAM), said the suggestions for part-time workers is a fallback practice.
“The current law does not specify what is considered as part-timers [...] whether you work 10 hours a week or 48 hours a week are all the same, they all receive the same rights,” Lei told Business Daily, while adding that the suggestions would turn out reducing the original rights.
The consultation text suggests defining part-time workers as those who work no more than 72 hours in four weeks. Also, part-time workers could make verbal agreements on labour relations but written proof of the relationship is required.
The consultation text also proposes allowing workers and employers to make agreements among themselves relating to overtime remuneration as well as compensation for overlapping mandatory holidays on weekends. Part-timers could also have no-paid maternity and sick leave. On the other hand, workers would have no probation period, annual leave, notice in advance, compensation for terminating contracts, and no contribution to social security by employers.
Legislator Lei could not understand the intention of the suggestions, remarking that the Labour Relations Law would be ‘assaulted’ if such arrangements passed into law.
“Although the number of people engaged in the part-time segment is not significant, once their rights are dampened, this would cause a negative impact on the rest of the Labour Relations Law,” said Lei.
She was also concerned that employers would choose to hire two part-timers to replace a full time worker as less would be paid by the employers.
“It is not an effective legal system if they are to encourage more people to work,” commented the legislator and unionist.

Unsuitable for current economic situation
Meanwhile, Vong Kok Seng, Vice President of the Board of Directors of Macau Chamber of Commerce told Business Daily that the specification of not working more than 72 hours in four weeks does not reflect the actual economic environment in the city today.
“It is very difficult to calculate or it might take some time to see the actual output value when [production] is related to giving out services,” said Vong. “Before, we could count the number of products you produced to see your productivity level, like you can qualify and quantify goods you produced in the past [during the industrial period].”
Vong also pointed out that different seasons would require different levels of demand for part-time workers.
“Like those who set up exhibitions; they work three to seven days for a one-day event and they might need to work 10 hours or more, but many of them could easily exceed the 72 hours regulation,” said Vong. “So does that mean they can’t work despite there being work to do? The people won’t be able to find jobs, and employers can’t find workers, so what good does that do anyone?”
The Director indicated that more research should be conducted to understand the current situation of part-time workers, while opining that the actual conditions for part-timers are not unfavourable.

Less bargaining power
Regarding the other part of the Labour Relations Law revision, Lei is concerned that workers would face pressure when talking with their employers about rescheduling the three mandatory holidays to other public holidays.
According to one of the suggested seven revisions, workers could reach an agreement with their employers on rescheduling three of the ten mandatory holidays to other non-mandatory holidays.
Nevertheless, the legislator said the other six revisions - including paternity leave from three to five days, and remuneration for the overlapping of mandatory holidays on weekends - are mostly agreed by the labour community.
Meanwhile, Vong perceived that the changes made to the Labour Relations Law would not pose great disputes and most employers would not disagree on the arrangements, but he believes that the Labour Relations Law has in general made both parties petty-minded, resulting in a negative impact.
“Sometimes I don’t think it is a good thing to make everything calculative; I mean, if you force employers to allow holidays for employees during mandatory holidays then employers would not be able to find workers during peak periods,” said Vong. “[And] some employers are not willing to triple their wages due to the drop in revenue, so they would raise prices and this would even worsen the situation.”
However, Vong said employers today realise the importance of workers, while he also perceived that workers are enjoying more benefits than before.
“[Employers] know [if not treating employees well] service may not be good and it would affect business,” concluded Vong. “The most important part is to talk things over.”