The law, including Article 27 of the Basic Law, provides for the right of workers to form and join unions or “labor associations” of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. However, to register as an official union, the government requires the organization to provide all of its members’ names and personal information. There is no law specifically defining the status and function of labor unions, nor are employers compelled to negotiate with them. While there are no legal restrictions preventing companies from refusing to hire union workers, union membership is not a legitimate basis for dismissal under the Law on Labor Relations.
Workers in certain professions, such as the security forces, are forbidden to form unions, take part in protests, or strike. Such groups had organizations that provided welfare and other services to members and that could speak to the government on behalf of their members. Migrant workers do not have the right to recourse for unlawful dismissal, and neither migrant workers nor public servants have the right to bargain collectively.
Under Article 27 of the Basic Law, workers have the right to strike, but there is no specific protection in the law from retribution if workers exercised this right. The government argued that striking employees are protected from retaliation by labor law provisions, which require an employer to have justified cause to dismiss an employee.
The law provides that agreements concluded between employers and workers shall be valid, but there is no specific statutory protection that provides for the right to collective bargaining. Independent lawmakers continued to push for the government to introduce a trade union and collective bargaining law.
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions.
Workers who believed they were dismissed unlawfully may bring a case to court or lodge a complaint with the Labor Department or the Office of the High Commissioner against Corruption and Administrative Illegality, which also functions as ombudsman.
There were no reports that the government failed to enforce strike provisions during the year. Although strikes, rallies, and demonstrations were not permitted in the vicinity of the CE’s office, the Legislative Assembly, and other key government buildings, in practice some protests occurred near government headquarters.
Some union leaders complained that while laws may exist that protect worker rights, the government did not respond to official complaints (for which the LAB charges the unions a fee to process) on working conditions or abuse, nor did the government punish employers that withheld pay when employees made such complaints. To register as an official union, the government requires the organization to provide all of its members’ names and personal information. Union leaders also claimed that the government maintained a “blacklist” of labor “agitators.”
In October several lawmakers urged the government to protect nonresident workers’ rights, claiming it was difficult to punish employers due to problems in the law. According to one legislator, the LAB had received a total of 135 court rulings regarding illegal work involving 258 illegal workers. A total of 114 employers were convicted, but 89 of these had their jail sentence suspended. The LAB claimed it had hired and was training 43 new labor inspectors to deal with these issues.
During the year the Union for Democracy Development Macau expressed concern that the law contains no explicit provisions that bar discrimination against unions. The United Free Union of Gaming and Construction Workers of Macau complained of police monitoring of its activities.
Even without formal collective bargaining rights, companies often negotiated with unions, although the government regularly acted as an intermediary. Pro-PRC unions traditionally have not attempted to engage in collective bargaining. Migrant workers do not have the right to bargain collectively.