More than 2000 casino workers in Ontario are set to strike if they can’t reach new agreements with their employer, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCG). The workers are members of Canada’s largest private sector union, Unifor, which announced the decision Monday.
The strike would impact gaming employees and security at up to eight GCG casinos in Ontario – six immediately, with two others setting a later deadline.
The workers are bargaining for fair wages, benefits, and pensions for Unifor members working at table games, slots, security, cashiering, food and beverage, kitchen and culinary, guest services, housekeeping, and maintenance. They are also asking for job stability and requesting that casual and part-time positions be upgraded to full-time.
Most of the casinos reached tentative agreements allowing them to avert a strike. This includes four of those that had set their ultimatum for Friday night, plus both of those that had been prepared to allow more time.
However, Unifor members at Casino Pickering and Casino Ajax failed to reach such an agreement with GCG representatives. Workers for those two casinos are now on strike until the two sides find a solution.
Potential Strike Comes Just Nine Months After Last
GCG found itself in a similar situation less than a year ago. Its workers at Shorelines Casino Belleville went on strike for fair compensation in October 2021. 84% of those 93 workers rejected GCG’s proposed wage hike. It would have bumped their pay to just slightly above the legal minimum wage in the province yet leave it more than $4 below the provincial average.
The local 1090 President Corey Dalton was quoted by Inquite at the time, saying:
In our view, there’s no logical explanation for that gap. We said to the employer, this is not about saying, ‘by the way, we are demanding that we have $4.10 cent increase right out of the gate.’ That’s not the way the bargaining works. It’s unreasonable for us to assume that we’re going to eliminate an entire wage discrepancy in one round of negotiations.
Days later, members had ratified their new contract. A press release outlined the new agreement:
The new agreement lifts average wages by 13% over the life of the three-year term, and some classifications by as much as 24%. The contract reduces the cost of extended health benefits by 50% and increases the number of Shorelines Casino Belleville workers who will have access to the health plan by lowering the threshold from 28 hours worked per week to 24.
It appears the success of that October strike has emboldened other GCG workers. With 2000 rather than 93 threatening to strike, it’s now an even bigger deal for the company. Unifor has also objected to Ontario’s new online gambling market, though in that regard, the union is aligned with GCG, which likewise sees online casinos as a threat.
Meanwhile, casino employees in neighboring Quebec have been on strike since May. Other threats to strike are underway by casino workers in New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Strike threat met with contingency plans by GCG
Although it continues negotiating with Unifor, GCG has a contingency plan in place if those talks break down. In comments to Global News, the gaming corporation stated it is “prepared with contingency plans to minimize disruption and continue operations for our guests.”
Still, the hope is that it won’t come to that. In the same statement, the company asserted that it “continues to negotiate with members of Unifor and is committed to reaching an agreement that provides our team members with fair and attractive wages, benefits and careers.”
Both workers and GCG seem to be prepared for a strike, and time is running out. For six GCG properties, the deadline to reach an agreement is midnight tonight. If the company and union can’t come to terms, workers at the following casinos are set to begin picketing immediately:
- Casino Ajax
- Casino Woodbine in Etobicoke
- Great Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry
- Pickering Casino Resort
- Shorelines Casino Peterborough
- Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands in Gananoque
Two other casinos may eventually participate in the strike but are willing to give GCG a little more time.