Unifor would strike starting Saturday

Great Canadian Gaming readies contingency plans to soften potential strikes at eight Ontario casinos; negotiations "down to the wire"

Casino Woodbine, one of the venues under strike threat.
Reading time 2:13 min

Great Canadian Gaming has put contingency plans in place in the event of a strike at its casinos in Ontario. The decision comes after Unifor, a union representing workers at gaming venues in the province, voted to strike if new agreements are not reached by Friday midnight.

In a statement released on Thursday, Great Canadian Gaming said negotiations with Unifor continue, and that it "is committed to reaching an agreement that provides our team members with fair and attractive wages, benefits and careers."

The company added that, in the event of a strike by employees in Ontario, it is “prepared with contingency plans to minimize disruption and continue operations for our guests.” However, details on these plans were not provided.

Unifor said Friday that "most secondary issues have been resolved in productive discussions" with GCGC on Thursday, but the "most challenging negotiations are underway today." 

“Unifor bargaining committees for eight casinos worked hard on Thursday to finalize many outstanding issues, paving the way for today’s heavy-lifting on monetary matters,” said Lana Payne, Unifor Secretary-Treasurer. “The momentum is a positive sign but we’re not out of the woods. We anticipate talks will go down to the wire tonight.”

Six of the eight GCGC properties are poised to strike at 12:01 a.m. Saturday if no agreement is reached. Unifor said the properties involved in this potential strike action include Great Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry; Casino Woodbine in Etobicoke; Pickering Casino Resort; Casino Ajax; Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands in Gananoque; Shorelines Casino Peterborough; Elements Casino Brantford; and Elements Casino Mohawk in Milton.

Workers that may hit the picket line include staff for table games and slots, security, cashiering, food and beverage, kitchen and culinary, guest services, housekeeping, and maintenance.

Unifor has said more than 2,000 unionized employees may strike on Friday if the new agreements are not reached. Issues to be resolved include wages, benefits, pensions and converting more part-time roles to full-time.

Unifor describes itself as Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in major areas of the economy. According to union officials, casino employers have bounced back following the pandemic-related closures. "Our goal at the bargaining table is to share some of those gains with the workers who make casinos successful," said this week Lana Payne, Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer.

The move is similar to that of Atlantic City's Local 54 Unite Here casino union, which had threatened in June with a fourth of July weekend strike due to a settlement issue with the city's properties. The strike was averted as five casinos in the city reached agreements with the workers, which were later ratified by the union itself.

The attention at the New Jersey destination has now turned to the two properties that have yet to settle. With the Borgata having now reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, only Resorts and Golden Nugget have yet to reach a new deal, with a pending July 30 strike deadline.

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