Casino workers nearing strike?
Trevor Nichols - May 15 - Biz Releases

Image: Trevor Nichols

A vocal group of employees from four of the Okanagan’s largest casinos rallied in Kelowna this morning as their union headed back to the bargaining table.

Approximately 1,400 employees of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited (which operates Playtime Casino in Kelowna, Lake City Casino in Vernon, and Cascades Casinos in Penticton and Kamloops) are pressuring the company to pay them a living wage.

The British Columbia Government Employees Union represents the employees. Today, the union’s bargaining committee went back into negotiations with Gateway to try and secure its members, among other things, better paychecks.

Stephanie Smith, the president of the BCEU, said contract talks first began in January but broke off on March 21 after neither side was willing to budge on a few key points.

“The wage and benefits package from the employer was just too low,” Smith said.

According to union members at the demonstration, Gateway’s last offer was an 85-cent raise, spread out over four years.

Smith said the company’s offer would mean wages wouldn’t even keep up with the minimum wage increases proposed by the provincial government.

She said Gateway employees in the Okanagan make less than their peers in other casinos that do the same jobs, and that should be corrected.

“They (the employees) deserve parity with other casinos in the province. They do the same job, they should have the same wages,” she said.

She said the bargaining committee will be pushing Gateway to pay its employees a living wage.

“The casino industry is a profitable one, but none of that profit is at all possible without the work of the members. They take their jobs very seriously and they would like to have a family supporting job in some of the most expensive areas to live in the country,” she said.

Tanya Gabara, the director of public relations for Gateway, has not immediately responded to specific questions about today’s demonstration or the company’s return to the bargaining table.

In a brief email, she told Okanagan Edge her company is “available to bargain with the BCGEU and has offered to do so in a respectful and constructive way.”

The new round of negotiations comes on the heels of a strike by BCGEU members working at the Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam. That casino is owned by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.

The Okanagan BCGEU members have not yet voted on strike action, but at today’s rally some members insisted a strike was inevitable.

Smith said the union is “cautiously optimistic” now that Gateway and the union are speaking again, but that “if things don’t progress we’ll be exploring all our options for next moves.”

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