Following a negotiations standstill last month, mutual accusations between the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment has inflamed the ongoing labour dispute at four casinos. The two sides have not met since August 23 and with no talks scheduled, there is no end in sight for the strike.
On Monday, striking workers gathered at the BC Lottery Corp. headquarters in Kamploops demanding an investigation of the casino operations during the strike. According to them, there might be certain irregularities in the management and operation of the three Okanagan casinos situated in Kelowna, Vernon, and Penticton, and the Gateway property in Kamloops.
In an official press release, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) describe malpractices witnessed by many of their 675 members who are now on strike.
Since the strike began on June 29, workers have noticed incidents including failure to identify patrons in the manner required by current regulations. The union also says that there have been cases when suspicious behaviour normally associated with money-laundering have not been identified and reported by the casinos.
BCGEU president Stephanie Smith asked BC Lottery Corp. to shut down the four Gateway Casinos until they could demonstrate they were responsible and could comply with all gambling laws and regulations.
The gaming and entertainment operator, however, puts the blame on the labour union. Tanya Gabara, Gateway’s Public Relations Director for Western Canada, dismissed all accusations. She responded in a short interview for a local news outlet by saying that the allegations were false. According to her, Gateway Casinos continues to operate in the same manner, within the regulations regarding the identification of patrons and financial transactions.
Little Hope for Resolving the Dispute
Although the workers’ strike at the four Gateway casinos continues for seven weeks, the properties are still open for business. But they work reduced hours and operate with limited amenities since many of their workers walked off the job in late June. The impact could be felt more strongly in the customer experience, Gabara admits with regret.
She claims the union has not remained at the bargaining table to continue negotiations. The company has not heard from the BCGEU, she says, adding that no talks have been scheduled, nor any dates with a mediator. But Gateway Casinos hopes to resume negotiations with the striking workers and reach a “fair agreement”, Gabara said.
The union, on the other hand, claims that the company refuses to offer them decent wages. In an open letter to the community, the Gateway Casino workers in the Thompson-Okanagan area say that they are among the lowest-paid casino workers in Canada, but the company uses “smokescreens and percentages” to make them look greedy. In reality, they receive $12-$13 an hour, which is the minimum wage in the Province of British Columbia ($12.65/hour), workers explain. Gateway Casinos’ offer is, therefore, no offer at all, since the proposed wage is actually equal to the planned minimum wage increases, the letter says.
The union is demanding a salary of at least $18 an hour, which is the average pay in the region, as well as the living wage amount estimated by the provincial government.