Canada casino and employee union relations are in the spotlight once again.
This time the light is shining bright on Casino Nova Scotia’s Sydney locale, where security workers have voted to unionize.
In late May, roughly 10 employees became the first workers to form a union.
Going forward, the Service Employees International Union Local 2 will represent the collective bargaining unit.
“There was lots of anticipation about doing it, but after a while, we started to wonder if we could pull it off,” said Curtis Dauphney, security worker via SaltWire.
“But then things started happening, and now that the official results of the vote are in, we couldn’t be happier.”
Security workers: We deserve a living wage
Although it took longer than expected due to COVID-19, Dauphney said security workers have long had a strong case for improved conditions.
According to the enforcer, security workers play a critical role in casino safety for all parties.
The thought is the collective bargaining unit will bring strength in numbers when it comes to negotiations. Improved wages are the main focus.
Security workers at Casino Nova Scotia (Sydney) reportedly only make two to three dollars more per hour than the minimum wage.
“We feel we deserve a living wage, job security and a strong voice in our workplace. The pandemic put things into perspective,” said Dauphney.
“Now that we are unionized, we feel empowered to negotiate for workplace improvements and better job protections.”
Few casino workers unionized in Atlantic Canada
Casino Nova Scotia has two land-based gaming operations. One is in Halifax, the other in Sydney.
Its Halifax location already has unionized employees.
But outside of the unionized Halifax workers and the security teams at the Sydney location – that’s it. No other casino workers in Atlantic Canada have unionized.
Interestingly, both the Halifax and Sydney casinos are owned and operated by the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.
The GCGC also owns Casino New Brunswick in Moncton.
“There’s no reason why casino workers in Atlantic Canada, in places like Charlottetown and Moncton, should be left behind,” said Darius Mirshahi, SEIU organizer. Mirshahi helped the security workers navigate their deal.
“They should be able to enjoy the same rights and protections as workers elsewhere.”
Multiple Canada casinos feeling union heat
Casino worker rights have been a hot topic of late in the gaming industry.
That’s mainly because some of Canada’s biggest operations have been in the crosshairs recently.
Consider Caesars Windsor – Ontario’s longest-running casino – who ratified a new deal with 93% of workers in favour on March 20.
Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy mentioned wages, benefits and job security as significant concerns.
One province over, in Quebec, there have been multiple cases of conflicts between casinos and their staff.
In Feb.2022, three Canadian Union of Public Employees unions at Lac Leamy Casino signed tentative agreements with Loto-Quebec.
Those unions included 80 security guards and surveillance technicians (CUPE 3959).
Gradual wage hikes were one of the successes for the employees.
Montreal Casino workers take up “Bet on Health” for strike theme
The latest – and perhaps most high-profile – spat is still happening at Montreal Casino. Several hundred workers demonstrated in front of Loto-Quebec’s headquarters in downtown Montreal on June 8.
Employees have been on strike since May 22, 2022.
As is often the case, improved wages are a central concern. But one of the main sticking points centres around health and safety conditions.
Jean-Pierre Proulx, the union representative of CUPE, says scheduling and rest periods need revision at the casino.
According to the rep, repetitive strain injuries are too commonplace.
An official statement from CUPE claims roughly 55% of Montreal croupiers have endured some form of repetitive injury – typically tendinitis – stemming from the working conditions.
That sentiment has spearheaded the strikers’ theme of “Misez sur notre sante” (Bet on health).
Loto-Quebec counters there is no proof to indicate such an increase in injuries.
Proulx: “We are demanding a meeting with CEO Jean-Francois Bergeron”
Regardless, there appears to be little movement towards a deal.
Montreal Casino is still primarily operational, with gaming tables in full swing. Its poker lounge, however, is shuttered.
Proulx is not a fan of the approach.
“In 28 years, the negotiations for the six previous collective agreements covering croupiers had only resulted in one strike day,” said Proulx when strikers took to the picket line on June 8.
“We’re wondering what is currently going on with Loto-Quebec’s new management team that has been in place for a year now. We are demanding a meeting with CEO Jean-Francois Bergeron to take stock of the situation.”
Montreal Casino is the largest land-based casino in Canada.