More Strikes on the Horizon for Casinos in Canada

Canada casino games take another hit; 4 gateway properties plan strike.

Canada Casino Games to Hit as Gateway's Okanagan employees plan StrikeEvery time we turn around, it seems more casinos in Canada are going on strike. In April, one of the largest and most profitable Canadian casinos, Caesars Windsors in Niagara Falls, went on strike. In mid-May, employees of the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver followed suit. Now, it appears the employees of numerous Gateway brands are heading for the picket lines.

Canada Casino Games to Take Another Hit

Just as unionized employees of Ontario’s famous Caesars casino were getting back to their jobs late last week, tempers were flaring at four gambling halls in British Columbia. All are located in the Okanagan Valley of southern BC, under the ownership of the country’s largest gambling entertainment corporation, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment LTD. They include:

  • Cascades Casino Kamploops
  • Cascades Casino Penticton
  • Lake City Casinos Kelowna
  • Lake City Casinos Vernon

From June 4-6, employees of these properties—members of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU)—were asked to vote in favor or against a strike. Over 88% of the unionized workers participated, and an overwhelming 93.1% voted in favor of a strike.

The reason for so many disgruntled employees is the same reason several other casinos in Canada saw their workers walk out in recent months. Better wages and benefits packages top the list. Employees feel they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. And an upcoming minimum wage increase will put them at the bottom of the nation’s wage chain.

New Contracts Aren’t as Generous as They Appear

At a glance, the new contracts Gateway has been trying to push since their previous worker’s agreement expired last September, look generous enough. However, a minimum wage increase is due to hit soon, and when it does, the wages in those contracts will barely exceed the new minimum wage. The end result—hundreds of employees will still be making barely above minimum wage, just as they are now.

“Gateway workers in the Okanagan are sending a clear message to their employer,” says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “They will not settle for less than the fair wages, benefits and respect they deserve.”

Talks between Gateway and union representatives fell apart in May when both sides were too far apart. Smith emphasized the unacceptable nature of Gateway’s terms, particularly in regard to wages and benefits.

“These workers are the heart of their casinos” explains Smith. “Gateway is a successful company in a highly profitable industry. They can afford to pay their workers what they are worth.”

She goes on to describe the sentiment of the staff. “Gateway Casino workers in the Okanagan are ready to do whatever it takes to get a fair contract with their employer—including strike, if necessary.”

Quick Resolution Benefits Everyone

As of Friday, the BCGEU confirms that preparations are underway for the employees of all four properties to go on strike. It’s not just Gateway that stands to lose revenue if the casinos are forced to close. The cities in which they operate will feel the impact, as well. Each receives a fair share of the revenue they generate.

Kamloops averages more than $2 million a year from the 10% it collects off Cascades Casino and Chances Casino. Thus finding a suitable resolution to the dispute will put an end to potential misery for the company, its workers, their respective municipalities, and the many players who enjoy Gateway’s Canada casino games in the Okanagan.

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