More than a hundred unionized casino workers held a rally at the offices of the British Columbia Lottery Corporation in Vancouver on Monday, demanding fairness across the gaming industry. They signed a petition asking the government-run agency to intervene in the month-long Hard Rock Casino Vancouver labour strike and to make sure workers receive fair wages and respect from employers and customers.
Workers from several casinos in British Columbia rallied at BCLC’s offices in Vancouver in the early afternoon on Monday. They are members of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), a union which represents thousands of casino workers across the province. After the rally, they planned to meet with BCLC officials and present them with over 700 petition cards signed by casino employees. According to the union’s president, Stephanie Smith, however, the management of the agency would not meet their delegation, so they had to push the petition cards through a tiny gap between the doors.
With their petition cards, workers and the union are appealing the BCLC to take action and ensure fairness in the gaming sector, Smith says. According to her, private casino operators pay their employees low wages while generating millions of dollars in profits. Companies such as Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and Gateway Casinos simply refuse to pay living wages and this has to stop, she points out, adding that the BCLC has the right and responsibility to “step in and fix the problems” in the industry.
Under British Columbia’s Gaming Control Act, the BCLC is a Crown corporation which manages all gaming operations in the province from behalf of the government. It has the authority to run casinos, so it should be able to intervene in the conflict between private companies and workers, the union believes. The agency should also negotiate better conditions for workers and guarantee they are treated fairly and respectfully at all gaming facilities in the province, the BCGEU also explains.
The BCLC did not wish to comment or talk to the rallying workers but StarMetro cites a statement from it, in which the agency explains it cannot intervene in labour disputes. Meanwhile, the strike at Hard Rock Casino Vancouver continues, although the casino remains operational.
400 Workers Strike at Coquitlam’s Hard Rock Casino
Around 400 employees of Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam, Metro Vancouver, announced strike action on May 11, after they rejected a proposal from casino owners, Great Canadian Gaming. The workers are represented by the BCGEU and according to the union, they have not been able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement with the casino for 16 months.
While the labour strike continues for a month now, the facility remains operational, staffed by some of the workers and the management. BCGEU’s campaigning is a huge “disappointment”, according to Chuck Keeling, vice-president of stakeholder relations at Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. He claims the company has already addressed most of the concerns, including wages and benefits. Still, the two sides have apparently not been able to find common ground on these issues. Otherwise, workers would be picketing in the past month.
In the meantime, nearly 700 casino workers and members of BCGEU in the Okanagan region voted in favour of a strike. They work at four facilities operated by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, the same company, which manages Grand Villa and the Starlight casinos. Currently, around 1,000 workers there negotiate for better wages and working conditions.