Update – 11:30 am
If you’re around Lake City Casino In Vernon after 3 o’clock this afternoon, you’ll see a picket line.
Casino workers there and at Gateway Casino operations in Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops will walk out at 3:01, exactly 72 hours since strike notice was issued.
BCGEU President Stephanie Smith says the union is asking its members to be respectful when people come up.
“You know, engage with the patrons, When possible explain why they’re out picketing. And for your listeners, it’s really, really important that the quickest way to get our members back to work is to support their picket lines. Don’t cross them.”
Smith says the picket lines will stay up as long as necessary.
“Of course, our goal is to get a good deal for these guys, so when the employer is ready to come back to the table and show us an offer that we think is reasonable, we’re more than happy to get back into talks.”
There’s no indication that’s going to happen anytime soon.
The company has said the union left mediation before wages were discussed, while the union says the company was stalling.
“You know, again, taking a great deal amount of time. I mean anybody who’s gone through the bargaining process knows that there’s often a hurry up and wait process but on issues that you think that you’re you’re very, very close to you don’t expect to be waiting for a long, long period of time for a response.”
Smith says at this point the ball really is in the employer’s court.
Gateway is expected to comment on the strike shortly.
The company has said the casinos will stay open during the strike.
Workers at Lake City Casino in Vernon and other Gateway casinos in Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops will walk off the job at 3:01 this afternoon.
The BCGEU, representing the 675 workers, served strike notice earlier this week after asking a mediator to book out of the dispute.
Union President Stephanie Smith says the workers just want living wages that would bring them in-line with the industry standard for casino workers in BC.
“These workers are the heart of their casinos. Gateway is a successful company in a highly profitable industry – they can afford to pay their staff what they are worth.”
Smith explains, “by paying workers living wages, the money that Gateway makes in the Okanagan stays in the local economy instead of going to Vancouver, or even Ontario where Gateway owns several large properties.”
In a vote held from June 4 to 6, over 88% of Gateway staff in all four Okanagan casinos came out and voted 93.1% in favour of taking strike action.
Gateway’s Okanagan staff have been trying to negotiate a new collective agreement since the last one expired in September 2017.
Negotiations broke off in May.
The union says the employer refused to offer wages and benefits that are industry standard at comparable casinos.
Smith says the employer’s offer is unacceptable. “The wages Gateway are offering won’t even keep ahead of the planned minimum wage increases.”
“Our members will be standing strong on the picket lines until they get a fair offer from the company.”
BCGEU represents around 675 staff spread across Gateway’s four casinos in the Okanagan: Playtime Casino in Kelowna, Lake City Casino in Vernon, and Cascades Casinos in Kamloops and Penticton.
BCGEU members work in table games, as slot attendants, cashiers, in the count room, kitchen, security, guest services and maintenance.
Gateway has said it plans to stay open during the strike.