UPDATE: 12 p.m.
The president of the BC Government Employees Union says morale remains high on the picket lines in Vernon and elsewhere as their members fight for a better contract deal from Gateway Casinos.
Stephanie Smith says an open letter – from the workers in Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops to the community at large – is an effort to explain the ongoing fight.
“The morale is very high, they’re very strong, they’re super-resolved and what really, really helps is the community support that they’ve been receiving,” Smith said in an interview with Beach Radio News. “They’re so grateful when folks don’t cross the picket lines.”
Smith said the union was willing to return to the bargaining table at any time if a new and better contract offer was made, however no talks are scheduled.
Striking casino workers in Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops have written an open letter to the community asking for support and countering company claims.
They’ve been on strike now for five weeks and two attempts at mediation have failed.
In the letter, the Gateway Casinos employees say they are simply fighting for respect and the ability to live in the communities they serve.
They say they’re not keeping up with the rising cost of living in the Thompson-Okanagan region, where it’s estimated a living wage would be 17 to 18 dollars an hour.
The BCGEU, which represents the workers, says even some long time employees, those with 10 or more years of service, are making between 12 and 13 dollars an hour.
It says Gateway is using smokescreens and percentages designed to make the employees look greedy, out-of-touch, and unrealistic.
Below is a copy of the letter.
Friday, August 3, 2018
An Open Letter from Gateway Casino Workers in the Thompson-Okanagan – OUR COMMUNITIES DESERVE BETTER!
Dear Community Members,
For over five weeks, almost 700 community members in the Thompson-Okanagan have been on strike. We are Gateway Casino workers fighting for respect and the ability to live in the communities we serve. We are parents, students, long-time employees – we are your neighbours and we’re asking for your help.
We don’t have to tell you the cost of living is rising in the Thompson-Okanagan region – you feel it as much as we do. Housing prices and rents are increasing, groceries are more expensive here than in larger urban centres and rising gas prices make life unaffordable for those who need to commute from smaller communities. It’s no surprise that living wages, the base amount it takes to survive in our region, are around $17-18/hour.
Knowing this, Gateway Casinos, the largest gaming company in Canada, still refuses to offer decent wages. They use smokescreens and percentages designed to make us look greedy, out-of-touch, and unrealistic. The truth is, we are among the lowest-paid casino workers in Canada. Many of us, even those who have been with the company for over 10 years, still make $12-13/hour.
Gateway’s wage offer will not stay ahead of planned minimum wage increases. This is not an “offer,” it is merely compliance with government law. To insist on paying employees the lowest wage legally allowed in BC is heartbreaking; it is a testament to what they believe their employees are worth – what they believe people in our communities are worth.
When Gateway says we don’t deserve to be paid as much as casino workers on the coast, what they are really saying is the service they offer you in the Thompson-Okanagan is second-rate. We don’t agree. We love our jobs. We work hard, in high-pressure environments, to offer you a top-notch entertainment experience.
The company has been taking aim at our tips. A tip is a reward for good service, it was never designed to be a supplement for poor wages. Gateway Casinos should not download the responsibility of paying a living wage onto our guests. The government does not even consider tips a dependable source of income and cannot be used towards things like CPP, mortgages, parental leave, EI and so on. Many casino workers don’t receive tips at all.
In the last few years, Gateway Casinos has invested nearly half a billion dollars in various development projects – it’s time they invest in their employees. When they pay living wages that allow us to live and shop in our communities, that money stays in the local Thompson-Okanagan economy rather than going to Gateway’s holdings in Metro Vancouver, Alberta and Ontario.
We are not on strike to cash in – we are fighting a wealthy employer for the ability to survive. We have families, student loans and the same daily expenses as many of you, and we are struggling to get by. It’s time for Gateway Casinos to stop profiting off our poverty.
Please help us in our fight by not crossing our picket lines and by telling Gateway how you feel. Call them, email them, write letters to the editor of our local papers. Visit our website at casinoworkers.ca for more ways to help.
So many of you have already come out to show your support and it means everything to us. Let’s show Gateway Casinos that the people of the Thompson-Okanagan are not second-rate – that we deserve better!
Workers from Cascades Penticton, Playtime Kelowna, Lake City Vernon and Cascades Kamloops