por Portugal aos Órgãos de Controlo da Aplicação
dos Tratados das Nações Unidas em Matéria de
Summary record of the 32nd meeting
- Macau : Portugal Macau. 05/03/97. E/C.12/1996/SR.32. (Summary
COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL
AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, Fifteenth session
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 32nd MEETING, Held
at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 20 November 1996, at 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Mr. ALVAREZ VITA
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS:
(a) REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES IN ACCORDANCE WITH ARTICLES
16 AND 17 OF THE COVENANT (continued) Second periodic report of
Portugal (Macau) (continued)
The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS:
(a) REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES IN ACCORDANCE WITH ARTICLES
16 AND 17 OF THE COVENANT (agenda item 4) (continued)
Second periodic report of Portugal (Macau)
(continued) (E/1990/6/Add.8 and E/C.12/1995/LQ.10)
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, the Portuguese delegation
took places at the Committee table.
Issues relating to the general provisions
of the Covenant (arts. 1 to 5)
2. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal), continuing his replies to questions
from members of the Committee, said that Portuguese civil servants
in posts subject to localization were generally expatriates, most
of whom would be returning to Portugal and would receive compensation
if they were assigned to a post at a lower level than the one they
had occupied in Macau. Some would be retiring and others with a
good knowledge of Macau would be invited to stay on as advisers.
The private sector was for the most part run by Macau's Chinese
community and its future did not give rise to any concern.
Issues relating to the specific provisions of the Covenant (arts.
6 to 15)
3. Mr. RATTRAY requested clarification as to how far the right to
strike was protected in practice and what the attitude of the public
and the business world was to that right. He would like to know
whether there had been any cases of reprisals against strikers and
whether measures taken to deal with strikes had caused concern.
4. Mr. GRISSA observed out that the dates indicated in the Portuguese
Government's written replies (document with no symbol distributed
by the Portuguese delegation in English) gave the day and month
of the adoption of certain measures, but not the year. What, moreover,
was the situation regarding the right to form trade unions if, as
Portugal affirmed, collective bargaining was not customary in Chinese
5. Mr. TEXIER, referring to articles 6 and 7 of the Covenant, asked
what protection there was for workers in cases of occupational injury
or illness, whether the Labour Inspectorate had the power not only
to enforce the regulations but also to take preventive action by,
for example, requiring that work be stopped on a site it considered
dangerous, and lastly whether breaches of the labour laws were punished.
6. The terms for the dismissal of a worker - for example, in the
event of restructuring - were not explained in detail in Portugal's
report, which did not make it clear whether a dismissal could be
negotiated and whether there were remedies available to workers
claiming to have been wrongly treated.
7. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN said that she had noted
some inconsistencies as between paragraphs 92, 93, 95, 97 and 100
of the report (E/1990/6/Add.8) concerning the implementation of
article 7 of the Covenant in Macau. If, as indicated in paragraph
93, there was no statistical information regarding the distribution
of income between the public and private sectors, she could not
see what basis there was for the statements contained in the remainder
of that paragraph and in paragraph 92, or for the figures calculated
for the public sector in table 4. Likewise, it was difficult to
make an appreciation of the situation of non-resident workers from
the information in paragraphs 95 and 100, according to which "the
law covers all categories of workers", whereas "non-resident
workers are not covered by the Labour Law". Lastly, in the
absence of statistics, what empirical data justified the statement
in paragraph 97 that there was no discrimination against any group
8. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) recognized that while the wording
of a legislative text indicated the year in which it had been adopted,
the same was not true for other measures or decisions; the person
drafting the written replies had, indeed, overlooked that point.
9. Replying to the questions on the right to strike, he said that
the right to strike existed in law but tended not to be exercised
in practice since Chinese culture preferred negotiation and settlement
to open conflict. Unions and employers might be put under very strong
pressure, including from public opinion, to find a solution. Strikes
were very rare, more often affecting the public sector, and were
initiated only in connection with very serious matters, such as
non-payment of wages for several consecutive months.
10. The right to form and join trade unions did, of course, exist
but the unions preferred to call themselves "workers' associations"
and aimed to promote settlements rather than resort to industrial
action. Collective bargaining as such was uncommon since the parties
preferred to come to an understanding directly amongst themselves,
without the presence of a Government representative, as required
by Portuguese law. That point had admittedly not been made in the
11. The powers of the Labour Inspectorate and the regulations concerning
dismissals were altogether satisfactory. Macau still needed non-resident
workers, and even where restructuring took place, workers were generally
retrained rather than dismissed. The regulations concerning dismissals
were none the less interpreted very liberally in Macau: a dismissal
had, of course, to be justified in theory but the employer did have
the easier role.
12. Mr. LOUREIRO (Portugal) said that a dismissed worker could ask
the Labour Inspectorate to take up his case. A inspector would endeavour
to help the two parties reach an agreement, in compliance with the
law, without going to court. When a dismissal was unfair, the parties
would agree on compensation, but if the employer believed that the
dismissal was fair, the matter would be decided by the competent
court. In the case of an accident at work, the inspector made out
a report; if the accident had not resulted in death or serious injury,
the court would simply determine the amount of compensation due
to the victim.
13. Mr. TEXIER, speaking on a point of order, said that the Portuguese
delegation had not replied to his question concerning the preventive
role of the Labour Inspectorate and any powers it might have to
close a site that it considered dangerous.
14. Mr. LOUREIRO (Portugal) said that the applicable regulations
were the same as those in Europe. The Inspectorate was bound to
sanction any breaches it noted and if an inspector believed that
lives were at risk, he would immediately report the matter to the
Director of the Labour Inspectorate, who could order the closure
of the site.
15. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal), referring to paragraphs 92, 93
and 97 of the report, indicated that the Macau Labour Inspectorate
had not registered any complaint concerning a violation of the principle
of equal pay for equal work. There was, however, always the possibility
that in Macau, as elsewhere, such cases might occur.
16. Mr. ADEKUOYE said that, according to the document "Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994", which had been
published by the United States Department of State and was quoted
in the country analysis prepared for the Committee by the secretariat
for the Committee (E/C.12/CA/23), many manual and other workers
from China and other countries were working between 10 and 12 hours
a day, often earning wages that were less than half of those paid
to Macau residents for the same work. The document also indicated
that, according to the official statistics for 1993, 32.7 per cent
of wage earners worked seven days a week. He would welcome clarification
from the Portuguese delegation on that matter.
17. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) said that he had read the document
in question and that Portugal had, furthermore, entered a protest
in that regard and called for some of the information in it to be
corrected. As far as the authorities knew, there was no violation
of the principle of equal pay for equal work in Macau. He also wished
to assure Mr. Adekuoye that overtime in Macau was paid at the normal
rate in accordance with the law or, in some sectors, on the basis
of collective bargaining agreements.
18. With reference to paragraphs 95 and 100 of the report, on the
legal protection of non-resident workers, he wished to point out
that the workers concerned were authorized to stay in Macau on a
temporary basis to perform specific jobs. In its written reply to
question No. 12 of the list of issues, the Government indicated
that non-resident workers were protected by special provisions (Governor's
Orders Nos. 12/GM/88 and 49/GM/88), which guaranteed them appropriate
lodging and social protection, in particular for accidents at work
and occupational illness. Such protection did exist, therefore,
even if it was not as good as that enjoyed by resident workers.
He would provide clarification as soon as possible regarding the
method used to compile the statistical data given in paragraph 93
of the report.
19. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO said that she would like more
information on the difference in social protection as between resident
and non-resident workers. Did the latter have to pay social insurance
20. Mr. CEAUSU observed that the statistical information in the
report was old, some of it going back to 1987, and should be brought
up to date. He would furthermore like to know the frequency of labour
inspections in Macau. It would appear that such inspections were
carried out only when a worker or union lodged a complaint. They
should, however, be performed routinely. Tables 5 and 6 showed an
increase in the number of victims of occupational accidents, thus
indicating that inspections were not sufficiently frequent. He noted,
in particular, that some accidents were due to over-exertion. Therefore,
hours worked were sometimes excessive, as maintained by the United
States Department of State in the document cited by Mr. Adekuoye.
He requested some clarification in that regard.
21. Mr. ADEKUOYE said that the Committee needed recent statistics
and those contained in the report certainly should be updated. With
regard to table 5 (number of victims of occupational accidents by
age group), he would like to know how many children aged 14 to 18
years were victims of occupational accidents. The 14-24 age group
would have to be split for that purpose.
22. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO said she was concerned by the
fact that the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions
relating to article 7 of the Covenant (right to just and favourable
conditions of work) might no longer be in force in Macau after 1999.
She would also like to know what was meant by "workers' associations
... similar to trade unions" in paragraph 103 of the report.
Were those associations real trade unions? Lastly, she was surprised
by the lack of social protest in Macau and by the passivity of the
general public. Was the influence of China perhaps already making
23. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN said that she was familiar with Macau and
knew that Macau's Chinese population was afraid about the future.
It was not enough to say that the labour inspectorate had not been
informed of any case of a violation of the principle of equal pay
for equal work. Furthermore, she was surprised that the Department
for Statistics and Census was unable to provide recent data on a
population of only 400,000. How had it been possible to furnish
precise data on accidents due to exposure to extreme temperatures,
for example, and yet give no indication of any case of sexual harassment?
She would like information on the situation of casino employees,
who represented a sizeable part of the labour force in Macau. Lastly,
the Committee needed more concrete information and the Government
should make every effort, including by means of the collection of
full statistical data, to protect the economic, social, and cultural
rights of the Macau population.
24. Mr. GRISSA requested some clarification regarding paragraphs
103 and 104 of the report, which he found so confusing and contradictory
as to be incomprehensible.
25. Mr. ADEKUOYE said that he would like more information about
the illegal immigration of workers into Macau and the measures being
taken by the Government to deal with such immigration.
26. Mr. THAPALIA asked for some clarification about working conditions
and collective bargaining in the building sector.
27. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA said that Macau was subject to very strong
migratory pressure especially from the People's Republic of China.
The authorities of the territory assumed the number of illegal immigrants
to be very high, despite the very strict border control policy.
28. As non-resident workers were by definition expected to stay
only temporarily in the territory, they were not required to pay
social insurance contributions, since they would be unable to enjoy
29. With regard to hours worked, it was true that employees might
in some cases be called upon to work seven days a week when a particular
job had to be finished on time, but that was by no means the general
30. Lastly, the Macau authorities had no information on cases of
discrimination because they had quite simply not been notified of
any situations of that kind. Acts of discrimination might occur
and in such cases the authorities would, of course, be perfectly
ready to take action, but to date no complaint had been made in
that regard. It was difficult to imagine why the labour inspectorate,
which had reported a number of violations of the labour law in other
spheres, would hide cases of discrimination.
31. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN, speaking on a point of order, said that
she had in no way meant to suggest that the Macau authorities might
be concealing cases of discrimination.
32. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) said that casino employees were
almost all resident workers and they were covered by the general
labour laws and paid taxes like other workers. He had no information
to suggest that there were particular problems of sexual harassment
in the casino sector.
33. Responding to the comments made by Mr. Grissa, he recognized
that paragraph 104 of the report was poorly drafted. In fact, the
right to strike applied without reservation to the whole territory
of Macau. There was, however, no regulation specifying the nature
of the entities which could call a strike, the amount of warning
required and other details applicable to the right to strike. Concerning
paragraph 103 of the report, it should be made clear that any group
wishing to create a trade union could do so. The point was simply
that, for cultural reasons, people in Macau preferred to establish
workers' associations, which were not really trade unions, although
they were similar to them in the way they functioned. The law did
not provide any mechanism for collective bargaining.
34. Lastly, his delegation would provide all the statistics available
to it, although in some cases they were not organized according
to the same criteria as those used in the reporting guidelines.
35. Mr. GRISSA asked whether the fact that collective bargaining
was not provided for by law meant that it was illegal.
36. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) said that collective bargaining
in no way constituted an offence. The fact was simply that agreements
concluded between a workers' association and an employers' association
after collective bargaining were not notified to the Government
and were not registered by it.
37. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO asked whether the workers' associations
were affiliated to international trade union federations.
38. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) replied that he did not have information
covering all workers' associations but he knew that the civil servants'
association, for example, was affiliated to a major international
39. Mr. LOUREIRO (Portugal) said that the information contained
in Portugal's report concerning the ILO conventions accepted by
the Territory was incomplete and that Conventions Nos. 1, 12, 26,
29, 73, 81, 88, 98, 100, 105, 106, 107, and 111 were all applied
40. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) said that the Portuguese authorities
were discussing further with the Chinese authorities the question
of the continued application of the international instruments in
force in Macau. In that regard, it should be pointed out that under
a specific provision of the Basic Law of the Macau Special Administrative
Region of the People's Republic of China, the ILO conventions and
the two International Covenants on Human Rights would remain in
force after the transfer of sovereignty. Discussions would, however,
be pursued on the conditions under which those instruments would
continue to be applicable.
41. Regarding the comment that Macau society seemed more passive
than Hong Kong society, he recognized that the Chinese influence
on Macau was very considerable, but wished to point out that the
People's Republic of China had always respected the principle that
Portugal was responsible for the administration of the Territory.
Macau society might well be less active and less militant than Hong
Kong society, but that could be explained by the fact that a large
part of the population in Hong Kong had been living there for two
or three generations and had a keen sense of belonging which had
no equivalent in a very large part of the Macau population. One
should, however, be very wary about drawing conclusions that might
justify a loss of autonomy for Macau.
42. The CHAIRPERSON invited the members of the Committee to examine
the issues relating to the implementation of article 9 of the Covenant.
43. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO, turning to the question of old-age
pensions, asked whether there were any statistics on the number
of older persons within the Macau population. It seemed to her,
furthermore, that there was some discrimination in relation to old-age
pensions between civil servants and private sector workers and she
would be grateful for clarification in that regard. She would also
like to know whether people not meeting the conditions stated in
paragraph 130 of the report received an old-age pension and, if
so, on what terms. It would likewise be interesting to know how
the old-age pension compared with the minimum wage and whether retired
persons were entitled to health care.
44. Mr. GRISSA said that in the case of Macau, as in that of Hong
Kong, he was concerned about what would happen after the transfer
of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China. He would therefore
like to know whether any provision of the agreement concluded with
China provided for old-age pensions and the savings of retired persons
to be maintained. In addition, it was hard to imagine that the Chinese
authorities would allow Macau's casinos to remain open and he was
therefore concerned about the future of the many people working
in that sector.
45. Mr. ADEKUOYE requested clarification regarding paragraph 110
of the report, which stated that of the 15,700 civil servants in
the Territory, 8,000 were active subscribers to the Macau Pensions
Fund and 3,091 others were non-active subscribers. Who were the
other 4,500 civil servants and were they entitled to a retirement
pension? Furthermore, it would be interesting to know how the civil
servants' retirement pension compared with the cost of living and
with the salary earned during active life. Lastly, were the retirement
pensions raised as salaries increased?
46. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN, referring to paragraph 140 of the report,
asked whether non-resident workers were entitled, like resident
workers, to maternity leave with paid salary up to a maximum of
47. Mr. CEAUSU observed, also with reference to paragraph 140, that
non-resident workers did not have the same social protection entitlements
as resident workers. He would welcome clarification on that point.
Concerning accidents at work (para. 136 of the report), he was surprised
that in 1993 the Social Security Fund (SSF) had paid an amount of
MOP 200,000 to one worker.
48. Mr. ADEKUOYE asked whether non-resident workers received a lump
sum at the end of their contract before returning to their country
49. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) said that no such clause was included
in the employment contracts of non-resident workers.
50. Mr. ALEIXO (Portugal) said that while it was not necessary to
have subscribed to the SSF to obtain the social pension (MOP 600
per month), beneficiaries must be over 65 and must have resided
in Macau for at least seven years. In 1996, 5,570 people were receiving
that pension (see para. 129).
51. To be entitled to an old-age pension (MOP 1,000 per month),
it was necessary not only to be over 65 years of age and to have
been resident for more than seven years in the Territory, but also
to have subscribed to the SSF for at least 60 months. In 1996, there
were 2,395 beneficiaries, as against 1,821 in 1995 (see para. 130).
Civil servants, whose pensions were much the same as those of workers
in the private sector and were raised at the same time as salaries,
must have worked in the public service for at least 15 years to
be entitled to a pension.
52. The financial situation of the SSF was currently good but likely
to be somewhat less so in the future because of the expected increase
in the number of beneficiaries.
53. The payment of MOP 200,000 by the SSF in 1993 to a victim of
an accident at work had been made in accordance with the law requiring
the SSF to pay compensation instead of the employer when the latter
did not have the financial means to discharge his obligations in
respect of his employees, for example, in cases of bankruptcy (para.
54. Lastly, health-care services were free for older persons in
55. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) said that all women working in
Macau, whether resident or non-resident, were entitled to maternity
leave with paid salary up to a maximum of three births.
56. The savings, pensions and social entitlements of persons residing
in Macau, including civil servants, would be maintained after the
transition period, in accordance with the Sino-Portuguese Joint
Declaration. The Declaration also contained special provisions for
the maintenance of casinos after the retrocession in view of their
importance to the Territory's economy.
57. Mr. CEAUSU expressed surprise that employers had to pay contributions
of MOP 30 per month for each non-resident worker (para. 137 (b))
when, according to paragraph 140, such workers were excluded from
the social security system.
58. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN said that depriving salaried workers of paid
maternity leave after the third child was in her view contrary to
article 10, paragraph 2, of the Covenant.
59. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO associated herself with the concerns
expressed by the two previous speakers and asked whether a worker
could be sure of returning to her job after taking leave to give
birth to a fourth child.
60. Mr. COSTA OLIVEIRA (Portugal) said that the law required employers
to pay the SSF a contribution of MOP 30 per month for each non-resident
worker but only MOP 20 per month for each resident worker in order
to encourage them to recruit resident workers.
61. It should be pointed out that while women were not entitled
to paid maternity leave as from the fourth child, they were free
to choose the number of children they wanted and could be sure of
resuming their employment after taking leave for childbirth, the
costs of which were borne by the social security system. Those entitlements
would be maintained after the transition period.
62. Although non-resident workers were in effect excluded from the
social security system, since they did not subscribe to it, they
did enjoy the measures of protection relating, for example, to accidents
at work and occupational illness, which were provided for by a specific
The meeting rose at 6 p.m.