Casino worker money demands called ‘unreasonable’

Gateway Casinos asks striking workers to return to mediation talks

Update 4:00 p.m.

Gateway Casinos is calling for striking BCGEU casino workers to return to mediation in hopes of resolving the current contract dispute.

In a statement emailed to Black Press, Tanya Gabara, spokesperson for Gateway Casino, called it “unfortunate” that the union has decided to go on strike.

“We remain open to going back to mediation. We want to get back to the bargaining table to have discussions that would see us find a more reasonable offer to the unions initial demand of a shocking 62 per cent average increase in wages with some positions increasing over 80 per cent, on top of significant increases to benefits,” Gabara said in the statement.

Related: Casino workers ready to strike

“As you might expect, proposing a 60 per cent to 80 per cent wage increase is not reasonable for any business.”

Gabara said mediation had resolved several key issues but wages were not discussed before the union negotiators walked away from the table.

“We hope that the employees who disagree with a strike make it clear to the union that they don’t want a strike. We remain committed to having respectful discussions with the union to achieve a mutually agreeable contract that is reasonable and responsible.

”Hard Rock Casino Coquitlam has been on strike since May 11—and they still do not have a deal finalized. Caesars Windsor employees went on strike for two months and achieved essentially the same deal that they rejected in April. Given this, it is unfortunate that the union has been unwilling to be more reasonable.”

Gabara said the casinos will remain open for business during the work stoppage.

“Good luck,” said Gayle Furgala, local chair of the BCGEU bargaining unit 1707, when asked by the media outside the Playtime Kelowna casino how it can operate without the striking workers.

Gateway says during the labour disruption, hours of operation will be noon to 2 a.m., Wednesday to Sunday. The casinos will be closed Monday and Tuesday.

All slot machines, Express Bar and cash cage operations will run as normal during the adjusted casino operating hours.

Table games will offer a limited selection of games from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Poker will remain closed.

Lottery payouts will be capped at $500—the designation as a regional prize payout centre will be suspended until job action ends. Lottery product will still be available for purchase at guest services.

The buffet service will open from noon to 8 p.m. with a limited food selection.

Original: 3:40 p.m.

Striking Gateway Casinos unionized workers dropped their cards and chips and hit the pavement to set up picket lines outside as promised earlier at 3:01 p.m.

More than 702 workers, members of the B.C. Government Employees Union, at the Cascades Kamloops, Cascades Penticton, Playtime Kelowna and Lake City Vernon casinos walked off the job after contract mediation talks broke down earlier this week.

Contract negotiations have been ongoing since the last collective agreement expired in September 2017.

Negotiations broke off in May after the employer refused to offer wages and benefits that are industry standard at comparable casinos.

Both parties met for a few days of mediated talks over the past two weeks but could not reach an agreement on key monetary issues.

Bryan Woodard, a member of the union bargaining committee, said the big issue remains money.

“Our members will be standing strong on the picket lines until they get a fair offer,” said Woodard.

He said he doesn’t blame Gateway management for the contract impasse so much as the low minimum wage in B.C. compared to other provinces across Canada.

Woodard noted casino workers in Ontario make more money than they do because the provincial minimum wage is set at $15/hour.

“We just reached the $12 mark here in B.C. so it’s not management’s fault for the low minimum wage,” he said.

“Unfortunately to live in B.C. we need more than the minimum wage, especially if you are trying to support a family and pay a mortgage.

“Look, a business is a business. They try to control their costs as much as possible, but to do that at the employees’ expense, that is where a fair and equitable deal has to be looked at.”

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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