ON STRIKE: Union workers at Ajax and Pickering casinos walk off the job
A strike has begun at casinos in Ajax and Pickering after a new deal for unionized gambling hall workers in South Durham was not reached by the weekend deadline.
Unifor Local 1090 had set a strike deadline of Friday July 22 at midnight to reach a new agreement with The Great Canadian Gaming Society for unionized casino workers in the province, including 226 employees at Grand Heron Casino on Scugog Island and 800 other workers between Ajax Casino and Pickering Casino.
The union announcement in the early morning hours of July 23 that it had reached an agreement in principle with the Scugog Casino, which is located on the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation lands.
Ajax and Pickering casinos will remain open 24 hours a day, every day of the week, offering electronic slot machines and table games. Live table games at Pickering Casino will not be available.
According to an online posting by Unifor Local 1090, “casino patrons should expect short delays upon arrival for informational purposes” and patrons are asked to “please approach the line picket slowly and safely. If you are in the area, workers encourage you to honk your horn to show your support as we fight to reach a fair and just settlement.
Emergency vehicles will have free access to all entrances at all times and vehicles will not be delayed trying to exit, the online publication said.
The union also urged visitors, “in the interest of public safety”, to use the west entrance to the casino, off Squires Beach Road, to avoid dangerous traffic delays on Church Street.
Unifor Local 1090 is also suggesting that gambling enthusiasts withdraw their money from Durham during the strike.
“We strongly encourage customers seeking casino entertainment to visit Casino Rama Resort as an alternative during the strike,” the union said.
The websites of the Pickering and Ajax casinos posted similar messages, notifying the public of possible disruptions at gambling houses.
“We have been negotiating with Unifor over the past few weeks with the goal of reaching an agreement that provides our team members (from the Ajax and Pickering casinos) with fair and attractive salaries, benefits and careers. Unfortunately, Unifor rejected our offer and elected to strike,” said Great Canadian Gaming.
On the Ajax Casino website, the company said it “hopes this type of disruption will have a limited impact on our operations, as we have developed contingency plans that will allow Ajax Casino to remain open.” We are confident that we will be able to mitigate this disruption with the team we have in place and are committed to working diligently to deliver an excellent gaming experience.”
Ajax Casino’s Getaway Restaurant will remain open, but with modified hours.
Additionally, the Casual Restaurant at Pickering Casino will remain open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
“Over the past month, the leadership team has been at the bargaining table with Unifor and actively sought solutions to proposed bargaining articles that would result in a fair and equitable agreement for all. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach an agreement despite being transparent and collaborative in our negotiations,” Great Canadian Gaming said on the Pickering Casino website.
The company added that the main focus of the negotiation was centered on “monetary and non-monetary items such as compensation, hours of work, transfer of roles and positions as well as clarification of duties”, the conditions work and remuneration being the main points of negotiation.
Talks between Great Canadian Gaming and ten bargaining units began on July 18, following a vote on the strike mandate in early July that saw employees vote overwhelmingly in favor of action if a new pact cannot be concluded.
In an online post, the union said the coordinated bargaining tables are prioritizing wages, benefits and pensions for Unifor members working in table games, slots, security, checkout, food and beverage, cooking and cooking, guest services, housekeeping, and maintenance.
Unifor is also looking to increase the share of good, stable jobs by converting part-time or casual positions to full-time jobs.
“COVID has hit everyone hard and we’re just looking for a fair deal that reflects the current economy and the current cost of living and that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” said Chapter Administrator Rob Bicknell. Unifor Local 1090 and the union president of the Scugog Island Casino, a day after negotiations began. “Our position is that we seek what is fair, a fair deal, and we are not being unreasonable… With the current state of the economy and we all know where the cost of living is going, we are simply seeking to ensure the future of our members.
In an emailed statement, Chuck Keeling of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation said the company “continues to negotiate with Unifor members and is committed to reaching an agreement that provides our team members with salaries, fair and attractive benefits and careers”.