The planned strike at Ontario’s casino Caesars Windsor was narrowly averted Tuesday night when the casino management reached a last-minute agreement with Unifor Local 444 bargaining team. On Thursday, around 2,300 workers will vote on the new contract and ratify it after two months of negotiations.
Employees at the Caesars Windsor reached a “tentative” deal with casino representatives just minutes before the 12:01 a.m. Wednesday deadline. Workers were ready to go on strike and close up the entire casino resort unless their demands were met and a satisfactory agreement was signed. In a press release minutes after midnight, Caesars Windsor announced the signing of the deal and expressed their appreciation of Unifor Local 444’s efforts during the negotiations. Unifor is the trade union that represents approximately 2,300 employees at the resort, as well as another several thousand workers from local companies, most notably 4,600 Chrysler Canada employees.
In the release, Caesars Windsor president and CEO Kevin Laforet said that the agreement between the casino and its employees was mutually beneficial. However, he did not reveal any details of the deal and the new contract, which needs to be ratified by employees before going into effect. Today, the labour union has scheduled a ratification vote which will take place in four voting sessions at Fogolar Furlan. Voting starts early in the morning and should be completed by 10:00 p.m. Although no details from the new collective agreement were disclosed, Unifor Local 444 said that workers would receive financial gains, as well as other improvements over their current contracts.
Caesars Windsor Shutdown Prevented in the Last Minute
Casino workers and their representatives from Unifor Local 444 started preparations for a full-fledged strike last week as the two parties were not able to reach an agreement for almost two months. The negotiations started February 12, with the bargaining team trying to push for better terms in the new collective agreement between the casino and the workers represented by Unifor. The previous contract expired Wednesday, April 4, so employees had announced their determination to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.
With the new agreement, the strike was prevented in the last minute. If the two sides had not reached a deal, workers would proceed with their plans and shutdown the entire casino resort. This has happened once before – in the spring of 2004, both the hotel and the casino floor were closed for 41 days as a result of a strike. Apparently, Caesars Windsor management was willing to meet employees’ demands this time and the worst-case scenario was narrowly avoided.
It was a tough negotiation, however, according to Unifor Local 444 president James Stewart who talked to representatives on Wednesday. He did not want to comment on the details of the new collective agreement but he pointed out that the most challenging issue during the talks in the final hours was monetary compensation. According to him, the financial terms are always tricky and hard to negotiate over but along with them, the bargaining team made several other essential improvements – job security, work schedules and time off.