Staff at casi­nos re­turn­ing to work

Union­ized work­ers at Val­ley gam­bling cen­tres rat­ify new con­tract by slim mar­gin

The Daily Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By STEVE MacNAULL

In the end, the two sides in the bit­ter, 19-week­long casino strike in Pen­tic­ton, Ver­non, Kelowna and Kam­loops de­cided to take the high road.

On Fri­day, af­ter union­ized work­ers voted 50.7 per cent in favour of a new con­tract on Thurs­day, there was none of the name call­ing and rhetoric that char­ac­ter­ized the dis­pute that started June 29.

“I am so impressed by the sol­i­dar­ity and courage of our mem­bers,” said Stephanie Smith of the B.C. Govern­ment and Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees’ Union in a news re­lease.

“They should be proud of what they achieved by stick­ing to­gether through­out the bar­gain­ing process, es­pe­cially over the past 19 weeks on the picket line.”

The 702 union­ized deal­ers, slot at­ten­dants, cashiers, count-room, kitchen, main­te­nance and guest ser­vice work­ers and se­cu­rity guards work at Gate­way Casi­nos, the op­er­a­tor of Cas­cades in Pen­tic­ton and Kam­loops, Lake City in Ver­non and Play­time in Kelowna.

“We are pleased with the out­come of the vote and thank the bar­gain­ing com­mit­tees that worked tire­lessly to de­sign an agree­ment that would fairly re­ward our em­ploy­ees while re­main­ing rea­son­able for the busi­nesses we op­er­ate in th­ese com­mu­ni­ties,” read a state­ment is­sued by Gate­way.

The nice pre­pared com­mu­niques from the union and casi­nos were in marked con­trast to some of the nasty ex­changes of the past 4 1/2 months.

At times, the union said the casi­nos had “no re­spect” for work­ers and Gate­way’s wage pro­pos­als were “in­sult­ing.”

The casi­nos called the union “sim­ply not rea­son­able” and “out of touch.”

On Fri­day, both the union and Gate­way seemed to pre­fer to con­vey in­for­ma­tion via news re­leases rather than in­ter­views with me­dia, to keep the mes­sages con­trolled and avoid hav­ing to elab­o­rate on the toll the lengthy strike has taken on both sides.

The four-year deal rat­i­fied by union­ized work­ers in­cludes an aver­age 23.5 per cent wage in­crease over the life of the agree­ment and im­proved ben­e­fits, par­tic­u­larly for part-time work­ers.

Most of the casino work­ers start at the B.C. min­i­mum wage of $12.65 an hour, which the union doesn’t con­sider a liv­ing wage.

Ini­tially, the union was af­ter a wage bump of over 40 per cent, while Gate­way was of­fer­ing an 86-cent-an­hour rise over three years.

Of the 702 union­ized work­ers, 511 cast bal­lots in the rat­i­fi­ca­tion vote.

Of those, 259, or 50.7 per cent, voted in favour, while 252, or 49.3 per cent, were against ac­cep­tance.

“The rat­i­fi­ca­tion vote was close, which means there is more work to be done in all four of th­ese work­places. That work starts as soon as the picket lines come down,” said Smith in the union’s press re­lease.

Gate­way’s pre­pared state­ment made no ref­er­ence to the rat­i­fi­ca­tion be­ing a squeaker.

Over the next few days, the four casi­nos will op­er­ate the same lim­ited hours as dur­ing the strike, be­fore re­turn­ing to nor­mal open­ings next week. They are: — In Pen­tic­ton, noon to 11 p.m. to­day, noon to 10 p.m. Sun­day and Mon­day with a re­turn Nov. 13 to nor­mal op­er­at­ing hours of 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sun­day through Thurs­day and 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fri­days and Satur­days.

— In Ver­non, open to­day from noon to mid­night and closed on Mon­day and Tues­day. Start­ing Wed­nes­day, open noon to 10 p.m. Sun­days through Thurs­days and noon to mid­night on Fri­days and Satur­days.

— In Kelowna, open noon to 2 a.m. to­day and Sun­day, with reg­u­lar hours re­sum­ing Wed­nes­day of 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sun­day through Thurs­day and 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fri­days and Satur­days.

Okana­gan Week­end file photo

Union­ized casino work­ers in Kelowna, who went on strike June 29, are re­turn­ing to work af­ter rat­i­fy­ing a new con­tract this week.

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