Negotiations broke down late last week between Unifor casino workers at Pickering Casino Resort and Casino Ajax and their employer, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC). This week, they’ve added a third picket line at Casino Woodbine, located about 65 km from the Pickering location.
The new picket line appeared on July 29, expanding on the existing strike of Unifor Local 1090 at the two GCGC casinos. The current strikes have been ongoing since midnight, July 22. Six other GCGC casinos, including Woodbine, accepted tentative agreements that night and avoided a strike.
In a subsequent press release, Unifor explained:
In Canada, workers locked out or on strike may picket other sites owned by the employer, which is why a legal picket line was in place at Casino Woodbine.
This comes on the heels of Ontario’s new online gambling market, which launched in April of this year. Unifor and GCGC have both said they see online gambling as a potential threat to the retail casino business. Some of Unifor’s primary demands are greater job security and less reliance by GCGC on temporary, part-time positions.
Union leaders ratified their contract on Aug. 5 and celebrated together on Saturday.
Unifor tweeted on Saturday:
ICYMI: Unifor Local 1090 members on strike at Pickering Casino Resort and Casino Ajax ratified their new collective agreement on Friday. Members celebrated at a gathering afterwards
Woodbine Joins Pickering and Ajax in Strikes
In a press release, Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne stated:
Our members, workers at Pickering Casino and their other properties, are fighting for equality with workers at other casinos. They are looking for fairness and Unifor is with them in this struggle.
In a video, Local 1090 president Corey Dalton commented:
We received a 99% strike mandate from this membership, the solidarity is fantastic. The resolve is incredible and these workers are prepared to stand up and fight for what they believe is fair.” Later in the video he speaks on Woodbine honoring their strike by joining “Obviously Casino Woodbine is a property that is owned and operated by GCGC. The reality is the same company owns the property [Woodbine] one hour down the road, that are compensating their employees significantly better than they are here [Pickering]
Although the Woodbine Casino is open, the picketing workers have blocked all six entrances, creating long delays for guests.
Unifor Claims Picketer Was Struck “Deliberately” by Car
The new picket line has already produced some drama.
On August 1, Unifor reported that one striking worker at the Woodbine picket line was struck by a vehicle the night before. The union believes the incident was deliberate on the driver’s part.
In a press release, Unifor stated:
The employer’s contract security officials initially refused to co-operate with police by turning over video of a vehicular assault. The casino hosted the driver on the premises for hours following the incident.
The 1090 member is reportedly recovering at home after being sent to hospital with contusions from the alleged attack.
Unifor ended its press statement with a strong message:
Picket lines remain dangerous places for workers and this is another example of that. Over the years, many Unifor members have been injured on picket lines in a similar fashion. This must end—workers have a right to be safe at work and a right to free expression. Workers in Canada have the legal right to picket as a peaceful method of raising awareness of their workplace dispute. Courts have repeatedly upheld this right. Unifor calls on Great Canadian Casino Corporation to condemn the vehicular assault on its employee and encourage customers to be patient during the labour dispute.
Neither GCGC nor Ontario police has commented on the incident. Legally, picket lines must take place on public property outside the business being picketed. So it’s hard to guess whether GCGC’s cameras would have captured usable footage of the incident.