The labour strike at Caesars Windsor continues with no end in sight as workers on Friday voted against the tentative agreement reached between casino management and Unifor Local 444’s bargaining team. The closure of the resort, which is the largest of its kind in the Province of Ontario, however, seem to affect not only the two sides in this conflict – it has sparked concerns among both representatives of the local business and Windsor residents.
Last week, Unifor Local 444, which represents around 2,300 Caesars Windsor employees, announced that its bargaining team has reached a tentative agreement with casino officials. A ratification vote was scheduled for Friday but workers rejected the new deal presented to them. This is the second time striking workers vote against the proposal made by casino management – last time 59 per cent of them said “No” to the deal and as a result, strike action was announced on April 6. This time, 53 per cent of the voters rejected the tentative agreement, saying it was very similar to the one they were presented with in April. The deal they were casting their votes on concerns the collective agreement between them and their employer and includes financial terms (wage increases, bonuses, etc.), as well as workplace conditions.
According to the workers, many of them are also not given the opportunity for full-time jobs and instead, they are forced to work part-time despite the fact they are at Caesars Windsor for many years. Some of the details of the new deal were made public and according to them, workers would receive a pay raise of $2,25 an hour over the next four years. They would also be given a signing bonus, depending on whether they work full-time or as part-time employees – full-time employees would get a bonus of $1,600, part-time employees would get $1,200, while the so-called “casual employees” would receive a bonus of only $675.
Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, had urged workers to accept the deal and after the vote, he seemed quite surprised. The union represents around 1,345 full-time workers and 567 part-time employees. On its website, Caesars Windsor did not comment on the negotiations and their failure but announced that the resort remains closed until further notice. This means that not only the casino and hotel are nonoperational until the end of May, but also that all shows at the Colosseum are postponed. In a social media post, the casino comments on the ongoing strike with a single sentence. It also says that for now, there are no plans for returning to the bargaining table.
Local Businesses Concerned about Caesars Windsor Closure
When the casino resort was closed on April 6, hotel guests were transferred to smaller hotels in the area. And while this might have increased the traffic at these facilities, the strike at Caesars Windsor is expected to have a very negative impact on the local tourism industry in the long term. The resort includes a hotel part, a casino, as well as a large concert arena which hosts shows every weekend. The postponed events this week, for instance, include the shows of Pitbull on May 25, Lee Brice on May 26, and Daniel O’Donnell on May 27. The next big concert on the list is Blink-182, which is still on schedule, but that could change at any time.
According to tourism industry insiders, Caesars Windsor is not just a hotel or a casino, it is one of the major attractions of the region. Its closure, which continues for 46 days now, would influence the plans of thousands of tourists who would otherwise visit the resort and leave an “economic footprint” in the region, according to Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) CEO, Gordon Orr. Many guests of the resort visit other tourist sites in close proximity. He admits that fewer people are now coming in the area, which ultimately has a negative effect on the local economy in the long term. TWEPI estimates that the first two weeks of the strike could cost the City of Windsor $500,000, while a closure of over 40 days may cut the city budget by $1.5 million.
This is the longest strike in Caesars Windsor history and some have already urged the provincial government to step in. According to Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, the Labour Minister Kevin Flynn should try help solve the issue as the two sides are not being able to reach an agreement. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens previously said that he would be willing to assist in the negotiations in any way he could. Now, Dilkens admits to reporters that he is shocked that workers had once again rejected a tentative agreement.