Company, union disagreeing on concessions; Gateway says it has offered “better job security (and) a number of additional conditions to help the business” reopen
The odds seem to be improving as Ontario casinos may soon reopen.
But what the COVID-19 game environment might look like.
Employees at Casino Rama are anxious to return to work, but many remain concerned about the health risks.
And many employees of Casino Rama continue to be concerned about the way Gateway Casinos operates.
Last week, after the union and the company failed to reach an agreement, employees learned that their benefits would be immediately cut. They had been extended twice since the casinos closed in March due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
Corey Dalton, president of Unifor Local 1090, which represents more than 1,100 unionized employees at Casino Rama, is furious that the company has suspended benefits. He says that Gateway is “greedy” and says that their conduct is “shameful”.
Last week, Gateway signed agreements with all of its casino properties to extend benefits to unionized employees – with the exception of those at Casino Rama.
Dalton said the company was trying to “completely dismantle” the previously negotiated collective agreement.
He said Gateway would only extend benefits if the union accepted “more than a dozen major concessions.”
According to Dalton, these concessions included:
- The abolition of the collective dismissal indemnity and of all rights to legal indemnity;
- Change recall arrangements based on classification based on seniority;
- Allow supervisors to carry out the Union’s work up to four (4) hours per shift, per supervisor;
- Merging of housekeeping in hotels and casinos;
- Elimination of customer services – reclassify as “Bell attendant”;
- Grant the employer the unilateral and undisputed right to modify the concessionaire break schedule in the way he wishes;
- Elimination of the employee shuttle;
- Elimination of Turtle Island (employee cafeteria); and
- Elimination (amalgamation) of the slot machine attendant and the player services coordinator in a new classification called “Customer Service Representative”
“For weeks, we have made it clear that we will not accept concessions that have a negative impact on our members,” Dalton said in a letter to employees.
“Your bargaining committee refuses to sell Casino Rama members out of desperation. “
Dalton said the union was “fully prepared and ready to discuss operational concerns that would allow the casino to reopen smoothly.”
“Unfortunately, Gateway wanted to completely dismantle your collective agreement rights and your statutory rights regarding employment standards. Gateway had not requested the same list (of) concessions on their other properties – just Casino Rama. “
But Rob Mitchell, Gateway’s director of communications and public affairs, sees it differently.
“Over the past few weeks, we have had discussions with unions across the country on agreements to continue benefits,” he said in a statement to OrilliaMatters.
“In addition, our offer has provided better job security for our employees and has also included a number of additional conditions to help the company resume operations more quickly.
“However, we have not been able to reach an agreement with the Casino Rama union, but we are ready to continue these discussions. “
Some Casino Rama employees will continue to receive benefits. In a letter to employees dated July 3, Gateway stated that benefits for non-unionized employees will continue for up to six weeks after the end of the state of emergency declared in Ontario.
The union and management have disagreed since Gateway began operating the casino.
This left some unionized workers frustrated.
A long-time employee, who requested anonymity because of fears about his job, said he “was not a fan of the union.”
He said the union should suspend union dues and “suspend all articles of the collective agreement” until it is determined what the reopening means.
He said that the claim that the suspension of benefits is only for a few weeks is “nonsense”.
“They already know that only a small number of people will be called back at the start,” he said, adding that this means that many will not return to work and, therefore, will not receive benefits.
Dalton said the union had been informed that the reopening of the casinos would be part of Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan. Premier Doug Ford has hinted that the province could move to step 3 as early as next week.
“All of the reasonable information at this point suggests that the reopening of the casinos could occur in the very near future – perhaps in a few weeks,” said Dalton.
Mitchell said it was not clear when the casinos could reopen.
“We are looking forward to a date when we can resume operations at all of our sites in Ontario,” said Mitchell. “Right now, the government hasn’t told us when that date could be.”
Dalton recognizes that unionized workers “will be angry” at the impasse.
“We must all direct this anger and frustration only where it belongs – at Gateway and their greedy management,” Dalton said in a letter to members.
“They abandoned their employees at Casino Rama – now their only property in Ontario without protection for health benefits. We will never forgive or forget this shameful action of a shameful employer. “