BCGEU 'exasperated' by Gateway's take on casino strike

By Greg Fry
September 12, 2018 - 9:49am Updated: September 12, 2018 - 11:58am

KAMLOOPS — The union representing close to 700 striking casino workers in the Okanagan and Kamloops has reacted to the latest stalemate in talks between themselves and Gateway Casinos.

Union members voted overwhelmingly to go on strike in June and have been behind picket lines since June 29. 

Earlier this week, in an open letter, Gateway said it was disappointed four days of mediated talks last week failed to help both parties reach a deal.

Spokesperson Tanya Gabara noted the company offered the union a package that would have had every employee receiving first year increases from seven to 19 per cent. She said those increases, coupled with tips averaging $8 to $12 per hour, would have had Gateway employees above market rates. The BCGEU indicated earlier they were seeking increases that average about 62 per cent.

BCGEU President Stephanie Smith says both sides remain far apart when it comes to wages.

"I have to say, it's a little exasperating. I mean if this employer truly cared about our members who have been out on the line for 10 weeks, then they would pay them what they deserve and that's a living wage that allows them to raise their families and be full community members in the communities they've chosen to live in."

She added Gateway's wage offerings are misleading when one considers how little their base pay is.

"The focus on percentage increases can be extremely misleading. I was up in Kamloops just this weekend and I spoke to one of our members who's been an employee at the casino and she's making $12.65 an hour. So, if you're focusing on percentage increases, yes, what we are asking for seems a lot," Smith says.

"But in fact, the wage increases that the employer are offering, even at the ones they're mentioning in their letter, still keep our members hovering at minimum wage. And so we're saying that's simply not good enough."

She adds the focus on tips is also unfair.

"Tips are not reliable" Smith says. "They can't be used to finance a mortgage, they can't be used when you're calculating EI, and it is a reward for service well done but the burden of paying employees shouldn't be put on the patrons, it's put on the employer."

As for worker morale, she says union members are disappointed mediated talks have fallen through but adds they remain "resolved" in their pursuit of a good deal.

She adds no new talks have been scheduled between both sides but says the union is "ready to get back to the table at any time."

The last deal between the sides ended last September.

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