Industry Reports

Caesars Windsor Casino Workers Prepare for Strike

Workers at Caesar Windsor are already preparing for strike action if they cannot reach an agreement with the casino management by April 4. Representatives of Unifor Local 444’s strike committee gathered at the labour union’s offices Wednesday to assemble signs in the event casino employees decide to walk away from work which will probably mean shutting down the casino resort.

The employees of Caesar Windsor, Ontario, have been in negotiations with the casino since February 12 over the terms of their new contract. They are represented by Unifor Local 444, a local union that includes the nearly 2,300 workers at the casino, along with 4600 Chrysler Canada employees and a large number of workers in other companies in the Windsor area. Last week, Caesar Windsor employees supported strike action in a vote organized by the labour union.

Strike co-ordinator at Unifor Stephanie Dunphy spoke with local media outlets Wednesday, explaining that workers still hope that for a satisfactory agreement with the casino. Their current contracts expire April 4, so employees have announced a deadline for reaching a deal with the management of the casino. If Unifor’s negotiating team and Caesar Windsor’s representatives do not reach an agreement by noon on April 4, workers will go on strike.

Dunphy said that the best outcome for them is if the two sides agree to a mutually beneficial deal because a possible strike would affect around 2,300 employees – dealers and cashiers at the casino, housekeepers, janitors, servers and cooks in the resort’s hotels and restaurants. The strike committee is now organizing everything from assembling signs to ensuring that there will be “strike captains”, food and portable toilets available. If it comes to announcing a strike, this would shut down the casino complex, Dunphy said.

Will a Possible Strike Pose a Threat to the Casino?

Unionized Caesars Windsor workers took part in a strike vote on March 21 which resulted in an overwhelming support of strike action – 98,3 per cent of workers voted in favour of stopping work on April 4 if necessary, according to the union’s Third Vice-President Doug Boughner. Local 444 president James Stewart said on Wednesday that the bargaining team is trying to focus on the financial demands of workers and put all non-monetary issues away for now. Employees want higher wages and pensions, but they have also expressed concerns about certain workplace conditions.

Casino representatives did not reply when asked about a possible strike, adding that Caesars Windsor would not be making public comments while negotiations were underway. The last strike at the casino was in 2004 when Casino Windsor, the previous name of the resort, closed for 41 days. This included shutting down both the gaming floor and the hotel from April 3 to May 14. According to reports, gross gaming revenues for the first quarter of 2004 were down $63 million compared to figures from the previous year.

Now, the question is whether the casino and its employees will be able to reach an agreement and if not, what the consequences would be. According to some, a strike is a likely scenario given the fact that the two sides have been on the bargaining table for more than a month now, while the deadline is just a week away. Unifor’s representatives, however, are optimistic, saying that both workers and the casino management show willingness to make a compromise and agree at least on the financial terms of the new contracts.