With only nine votes in support, 14 against and seven abstentions, a bill submitted by lawmakers José Pereira Coutinho and Leong Veng Chai on the right of workers to form trade unions was rejected by the Legislative Assembly (AL) Monday.
While Coutinho heads the Macau Civil Servants Association (ATFPM), Leong a board member of the association.
The bill’s preamble states that while the right for workers to form trade unions is enshrined in the Basic Law, there are no laws in Macau that specifically deal with that right.
Leong told his fellow lawmakers that the bill also deals with the structure and statutes of a trade union. In addition, it also affirms workers’ rights to collective bargaining and protection from discrimination due to their involvement in trade unions.
Several lawmakers who voiced their objection to the bill commented that while they supported the idea that workers’ rights ought to be protected, they criticised Coutinho and Leong for not consulting the public before submitting the bill to the legislature for debate.
Lawmaker-cum-businessman Fong Chi Keong said that the contents of the bill were unrealistic and unsuitable for Macau’s current situation. He also voiced his concern that if passed into law it may cause social unrest.
Song Pek Kei, speaking on her and colleagues Chan Meng Kam and Si Ka Lon’s behalf, voiced scepticism about the true intentions behind the bill, saying its contents bore little difference to those proposed by Coutinho on previous occasions, instead of listening to fellow lawmakers’ ideas and opinions regarding the bill. The directly-elected trio are members of the Alliance for Common People Building Up Macau (APIM). Chan is a prominent member of Macau’s sizeable Fujianese community.
“Because of this, we abstained and urge the government to commence public consultations and start drafting a trade union bill that truly helps the workers,” she said.
Song’s statement was echoed by fellow lawmaker-cum-civic leader Melinda Chan Mei Yi, who cast a “no” vote, saying the government should start drafting a trade union bill as soon as possible.
Veteran labour union leader Kwan Tsui Hang, one of the seven lawmakers who supported the bill, said that the bill would not give workers unlimited powers but merely ensured that they do not suffer unfair treatment.
“I understand that the bill is controversial to some. But as a unionist, I should fight for its passage,” said Kwan.
After the bill was rejected, Coutinho spoke of his disappointment, saying the issue was
a matter of social justice.(macaunews/macaupost)