Update 4:45 AM June 28 Tom Mark
Gateway Casinos says it’s surprised by the decision by the BCGEU to end mediation and announce a strike at its Okanagan and Kamloops Casinos Friday afternoon.
In an email to CJIB News, Gateway spokesperson Tanya Gabara says the union left the bargaining table before there was a discussion on wages.
Gabara says the company remains committed to having respectful discussions with the union to achieve a mutually agreeable contract that is reasonable and responsible.
She says the union’s decision is unfortunate for the business and the employees.
Gabara adds the company hopes that the employees who disagree with a strike make it clear to the union that they don’t want a strike.
BCGEU President Stephanie Smith said yesterday that Gateway’s last wage offer was still below what would keep the employees above the government’s announced minimum wage increases.
There is no plan to close Lake City Casino in Vernon, nor the operations in Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops.
Mediation has broken down between Gateway Casinos and the BCGEU which represents 675 casino workers in the Okanagan and Kamloops.
BCGEU President Stephanie Smith tells CJIB News that means the workers, including those in Vernon and Kelowna, will be going on strike.
“We have issued 72 hour strike notice. We issued for the four Gateway casinos located around the Okanagan. We issued that late yesterday afternoon and our members will be picketing on Friday.”
The strike will begin in the late afternoon that day.
Gateway Casinos has yet to comment on the job action, and how it may impact their operations.
Smith says the union asked the mediator to book out after efforts to get the company to come around on wages and benefits went nowhere.
“But we just saw a lot of stall tactics on the part of the employer and their last offer was still below what would keep our members ahead of the announced minimum wage increases.”
Smith wouldn’t confirm Gateway’s claim the union was asking for 60 to 80 per cent wage increases.
“They are taking those increases from the absolute lowest wage earners within the casino which is at minimum wage. So eighty per cent on minimum wage sounds like a great deal but in fact this is what would need to happen to keep them ahead of minimum wage increases.”
Smith says it’s a matter of bringing the workers wages up to industry standard.
She says the strike will curtail casino operations.
“They can use excluded staff and those workers who are not currently unionized. But they cannot use replacement workers in bargaining unit work. So they can’t hire other workers to come in and do our member’s work.”
The employees voted 93 per cent in favour of strike and Smith says the union has a very healthy defence fund to support them.
Smith says the union’s goal is to get a good collective agreement for the members and hopes the employer is willing to come back to the table and roll their sleeves up to help achieve that.
The BCGEU members work in table games, as slot attendants, cashiers, in the count room, kitchen, security, guest services and maintenance.
Gateway Casino workers in Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops will be going on strike Friday.
BCGEU President Stephanie Smith tells CJIB News mediation efforts stalled and the union asked the mediator to book out.
Smith says the issues continue to be around wages and benefits.
Sher says the employers last wage offer was still below what keep the employees ahead of the announced minimum wage increases.
More details to come.