The saga of the cook and the resort

Not long ago, a local resort interviewed a candidate for the position of second class cook. His experience essentially amounted to cooking noodles in one of those quaint shops off Areia Preta. But the individual in question was a local worker and, as such, an interview took place. The cook considered that he should be a first class chef – at least he didn’t say he wanted to be an Executive Chef – which of course would not be possible because his experience and knowledge was that of a kitchen assistant. What, then, did the candidate? He complained to the relevant government department. And what did this department do? Just what you do these days, given the careless irresponsibility that continues to be promoted by staff without any sense: it found that the candidate should be a first class chef. One may ask what knowledge the governmental department had to decide upon the candidate’s qualifications. But let’s not get sidetracked by minor details. ‘Hire him or else’ seems to be the mantra these days. The resort had no alternative. And hired him. He now performs the functions of an assistant but receives the salary of a first-rate cook. Apparently, everyone is pleased. The assistant has now more money and prestigiously increased his Curriculum Vitae; the resort, meanwhile, has one more local worker to factor into its mathematical quotas; and the government continues to tread a ‘perfect strategy’ towards the ultimate goal: that of nurturing local ‘talent’. Talent much needed by local human resources departments, it would appear. When asked by a highly qualified, award-winning candidate what kind of career path the 5-star hotel could offer she was met with “What’s a career path?” She decided to terminate the interview herself rather than endure any more talented ripostes. Epic of the unloved Once upon a time there was a gaming operator that needed to bring to town the head of its legal department. It’s not every day that you need a legal chief; the big boss who walks into this difficult task to interpret laws for the main boss, suspicious of everyone outside of his own inner circle. The boss’s lawyer’s presence was not acceded to. Stay in Hong Kong if you wish and work from there, he was advised. And so he did, travelling hither and thither according to the company’s needs. But with a return ticket. It is true that non-resident workers continue to increase – although most are linked to construction, an industry whose fortunes will be interesting to follow when the inevitable cuts are made once Cotai’s expansion reaches critical mass. Many are the cases of ‘blue collars’ whose permission to remain in Macau is revoked. And then there are other cases where a renewal of the infamous blue card for two more years gets a big sigh of relief as if the worker had finally heard from the doctor that the pang he feels is not related to anything terminal. We live today in the dictatorship of the quota, fuelled by a opaquely defined strategy of creating ‘talent’. Via a strange programme that distributes millions of patacas to certain associations. Almost none of this, by the way, is investigated. No programmes, no attendance, no effective results. Neither of the millions, tens of millions, given away. For Macau talent. Hooray! Do the maths and follow the money trail and conclusions will follow. One cannot say that the dictatorship of the quota has no merit. For some, at least. Harmful messages If one understands that this no-good saga – without strategy and living from promises to a few local lobbies – that risks sinking even more the quality of services in Macau interest just a few it is difficult to understand why relevant entities do not see the possible implications of the damage. What was it the Chief Executive really wanted to say during his recent address to the Legislative Assembly when he stated “we will implement the mechanism of dismissal of imported foreign labour”? If the intention is to send the message to investors and to the external community that Macau not only creates the greatest difficulties for the international labour market but now wants to be more expedient in getting rid of those who work here it was well done. But to be the leader of the government to say it, when you know that no city is self-sufficient and in our case we have no unemployment as the demand for skilled labor is still far greater than the supply, it is more than incomprehensible. It is absolutely unacceptable. For years, Macau has experienced a state of perfect cannibalization of labour. Those who have the financial capacity will take workers from those who have fewer resources, with a transfer of some of the most qualified human resources to the most powerful industries – namely, gaming. To keep some of their most effective people, the remaining companies have to reduce to a minimum their profit margin in a way that one day might force closure upon them. And there goes diversification, that modern day quandary. NOTE: The fact that this strategy is wrong from the beginning, falling victim to the inability of those who should think and define such strategies, does not mean we should not stimulate and defend the continuous career progression of the local work force and that all specialised foreign workers are fundamental. It is important, however, that the progress, in the first case, be sustainable. With effective policy and professional development. Leading to an obvious and natural career development. Not by jumping several stages of one’s career courtesy of some sort of administrative diktat. If this continues, everyone has to lose. Take the case of the administration itself. That’s exactly what happened when the positions left vacant by the Portuguese ‘stampede’ shortly after the handover were occupied soon after by many people without experience. Even today we are paying for that mistake, although Beijing has warned again and again via the Joint Liaison Group (the diplomats of the two countries that prepared the dossiers for the transition) of the consequences of damaging delays on the localisation of senior administrative positions That said, there are intermediate and high level company executives – many employed by the gaming operators – who still do not respect Macau and its people, thus creating unnecessary friction. In most cases they take advantage of people and local businesses to open doors just to unceremoniously discard their local partners by believing they are no longer needed. A lack of respect, more than anything else, that sooner or later will bear its poisonous fruit.