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Open letter from Gateway Casinos takes aim at ‘unreasonable’ demands from union

The letter claims they are offering striking workers more than living wage, union stalling process

An open letter to the communities in the Okanagan from Gateway Casino & Entertainment Limited is disputing the claim made by BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) that the company is not offering a “livable wage” in their ongoing strike negotiations.

Over 600 workers in four Okanagan casinos owned by Gateway – Cascades Kamloops, Cascades Penticton, Playtime Kelowna and Lake City Vernon – have been on strike for 13 weeks, demanding increased wages and benefits. The casinos have remained open since the strike started but tensions have remained high on both sides of the picket line.

Related: Okanagan casino workers on their 10th week of strike action

“The union claims that our latest monetary proposal does not meet the ‘living wage’ amounts for these communities. In fact, they do,” states the letter.

The letter goes on to cite LivingWageforFamilies.ca and their definition of living wage as “a regional calculation that looks at the amount that a family of four needs to earn to meet their expenses.” It is noted that this includes rent and groceries but not debt repayment or savings for future plans.

Related: Mediation talks break off in casino strike

The letter explained that with Gateway’s proposed wage increase, entry-level cashiers would receive a 7.5 per cent increase in the first year, averaging an annual compensation of $50,362. This calculation includes tips, which are “a standard part of the compensation for many employees and are paid in grievance resolutions with the union” states the letter.

“This annual compensation is well above the ‘living wage’ in Kamloops of $36,004 per year (17.31 per hour), as

noted by Living Wage for Families Campaign,” states the letter. “Annual compensation includes minimum wages, medical, dental, paid sick time and pension. All of these are included in (our) example.”

The letter also states that at the last round of mediated talks with the union, Gateway Casino proposed a monetary package that included wage increases that would have “every employee receiving an increase from 7 per cent to as much as 19 per cent in the first year alone.”

Related: Despite labour dispute, Cascades Casino Penticton still ‘open for business’

“These wages, in addition to tips of $8 to $12 per hour, benefits and pension would see our employees making well over market rates. Our proposal is also well above other recent settlements in British Columbia both by government and private companies,” states the letter.

The letter goes on to call the union’s demand for wage increases of more than 25 per cent “unreasonable” and says their proposals “remain above the wages of even the largest casinos operating 24/7 in Metro Vancouver.”

“We are very disappointed that we remain at a stalemate without a tentative collective agreement or a path forward. This shows that union leaders from the lower mainland continue to be out of touch with our communities,” states the letter.

The letter also noted that while the workers are on strike, the union leadership “continues to get paid regularly” and that “they are the one who continue to stall the process.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter

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