Terry Green, former president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers Union, joined his BCGEU brothers and sisters on the picket line Saturday at the Penticton Cascades Casino. Mark Brett/Western News

Casino and striking workers still at odds

Both sides claim they are willing to continue to negotiate

Gateway Casinos and a union executive are trading barbs as mediation talks for striking casino workers have come to a halt.

Doug Kinna, executive vice president of the BCGEU, alleges that Gateway Casino managers are “poking” striking workers. He claims managers have made statements to those walking the picket lines including that they hope the workers have ‘good winter boots because they will be out there until Christmas’ and that they are happy the workers are on strike because it gives them time to go play golf.

“We want this to end as quickly as possible but we don’t want to accept a low ball deal that is below what other casino workers receive for the same work. How long this lasts is really up to the employer,” said Kinna.

Related: Show of union solidarity on casino picket line

“This is dollars per hour the other casinos are receiving, not cents. We don’t get hung up on cents.”

While Gateway Casinos said the union is out of touch with the marketplace and are “disappointed” after a few days of mediation on the weekend that ended with a full day and half remaining with the mediator when the union walked out. Kinna said the package proposed was significantly below the industry standard and is “insulting.” He added there was some movement on vacation and health benefits but the major issue of wage wasn’t dealt with. Kinna said until that happens there is “nothing more to talk about with the employers.”

Related: B.C. Wine Info Centre feeling the impact of striking casino workers

“We had hoped that mediation this weekend would be more productive, unfortunately these past few days of mediation have resulted in more disappointment,” said Tanya Gabara, director of public relations for Gateway Casinos, in an open letter.

Proposed wage increases of more than 40 per cent, as well as increases in benefits and pensions, have the unionized casino workers and Gateway at a deadlock. In the letter from Gateway, it alleges that proposed wage rates of more than $20 for positions such as cashiers, guest services and restaurant hosts are “simply not reasonable rate increases for any business.”

Negotiations broke off in May and mediated talks have not resulted in any agreements on key monetary issues. Gateway said if the union was serious about bargaining and bringing an end to the strike they would have brought a reasonable package for this size of the community and casino operations in those communities.

“Really, the only thing that has changed is that days and weeks continue to go by while our employees remain on strike. We hear from our employees that they want to return to work and deliver great customer service and provide a great entertainment experience for our customers. The union seems more interested in continuously walking away from eh bargaining table before any real negotiations have occurred.”

Both sides claim they are willing to continue to negotiate should a reasonable proposal be brought forward. At this time, there are no further dates booked for mediation.


Kristi Patton | Editor

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