Union calls for government intervention on casino workers strikeJune 12, 2018
VANCOUVER—One month into a 400-person strike at a Metro Vancouver casino, the union representing the striking workers says it’s time for the provincial agency in charge of lottery and gaming to step in.
Employees of Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam have been on strike since May 11, during which the casino has remained open, staffed by management and employees who are not part of the bargaining unit. The strike came after the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents casino workers, rejected an offer by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation 16 months into negotiations.
One month into a strike the two sides are still far apart, with the employer saying their rejected offer was already above the industry standard, and the union arguing it doesn’t contain high enough wages or extensive enough protections from harassment.
“Right now BCLC (British Columbia Lottery Corporation) is letting the owners have the control,” said Germaine Bourasaw, a 19-year guest services employee at Hard Rock Casino at a rally outside the agency’s office. “It needs to be the other way around.”
Under the provincial Gaming Control Act, BCLC has the authority to manage and operate provincial gaming on behalf of the government. BCGEU argues that means the agency should intervene in the strike — and advocate for a better deal for workers.
“It would be a win for them to go to management and say, look, these issues have been raised with us, we want to discuss them with you,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president in an interview with StarMetro. “Let’s bring the casino and the union together and let’s get a deal for these workers.”
Dozens of gaming employees rallied outside the BCLC office mid-day Monday, and delivered about 700 signed petition cards asking the agency to intervene.
Smith, whose union represents casino workers across the province, including those at four Gateway casinos who last week also voted to authorize a strike, referred to BCLC as the “missing component” in the negotiations so far. The BCLC takes a different position.
A spokesperson from BCLC was not available Monday for comment. In a written statement to StarMetro, a BCLC representative wrote that the agency is not a party in the labour disputes and has “no legal standing to intervene.”
The agency would continue to monitor the situation to ensure safety, security, and integrity of games, the statement read.
Chuck Keeling, vice-president of stakeholder relations at Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, called BCGEU’s campaigning “inaccurate” and “a disappointment.” Keeling said the company has addressed the union’s concerns about wages, scheduling, and benefits.
BCGEU’s call comes at a time when tensions regarding gaming are running high in B.C. Last month, a man was arrested at River Rock Casino in Richmond on money laundering charges.
Smith said the public scrutiny of the gaming industry due to the arrest doesn’t change the negotiations or what the union is asking for. But she does think casino employees should have whistleblower protection for when they may want to report “irregularities.”
Alex McKeen is a Vancouver-based reporter covering wealth and work. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_mckeen