After nearly three months, the Montreal Casino strike is over.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees – representing 545 unionized croupiers at the establishment – and Loto-Quèbec have reached a tentative agreement.
Details, however, so far remain murky.
That’s because members still need to vote – by secret ballot – in the coming weeks to ratify the deal. Until then, neither party can legally comment on the matter.
But CUPE representative Jean-Pierre Proulx, via a statement, is confident the end is near.
“The union and bargaining committees are satisfied with this agreement and are confident that it will also be satisfactory to the members.”
Montreal Casino workers sans agreement since March 2020
Montreal Casino’s unlimited general strike officially started on May 21, 2022. But in reality, worker discontent began much earlier.
Employees have been without a collective labour agreement since March 31, 2020.
Indeed, Loto-Quèbec can’t take all of the blame. Covid-19 devastated the gaming industry, postponing negotiations until this year.
Nonetheless, even when all the parties hit the bargaining table, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. In fact, in May 2022 alone, workers took to the picket line three times.
According to the union, the strike cost the Crown corporation more than $13 million in the end.
Rest periods and wages sticking points for union
The union’s major sticking points included rest periods, paid breaks and wage hikes.
For starters, Proulx was adamant croupiers’ daily schedules be improved. He said workers suffer from a “staggering” number of work-related injuries, with dealers often working six days a week with few rest periods.
Loto-Quèbec countered it hadn’t seen an increase in such injuries.
Salaries were another focus.
According to CUPE, Loto-Quèbec attempted to decrease starting salaries by 10%.
Currently, employees earn $18.40 an hour. But the Crown corporation was reportedly looking to push that down to $17.44 – an “irresponsible” move, said CUPE. Loto-Quèbec commented Montreal Casino workers already earn an entry-level salary more than 20% above typical levels.
Bonuses and tips can push that amount even higher, making a small wage cut reasonable.
Workers wanted 30 minutes of paid break for each hour on the floor
Paid breaks were perhaps the most interesting sticking point. Dealers allegedly wanted 30 minutes of paid break each hour at the table.
Loto-Quèbec, via an Aug.4 statement, bristled at the notion.
“They would therefore spend more than 30% of their shift on paid break, which is unusual in the industry and the other casinos of the Company.
From the perspective of responsible management of public funds, the employer cannot accept such a request.”
Agreement like Casino du Lac-Leamy, Casino de Charlevoix deals rejected
Regardless of the bluster, punters can be sure casinos will have their eyes peeled for the specific details of the arrangement. Despite the strike, most activities at the casino – including popular games like blackjack and roulette – continued unscathed.
In Loto-Quèbec’s 2021 – 2022 fiscal document, the corporation reported $657.2 million in revenue in its casino and gaming halls.
Compared to the previous year, that’s a $323.5 million increase. One might wonder how rushed the government agency was in brokering a deal.
That rings especially true when one considers that other Loto-Quèbec casinos, like Casino du Lac-Leamy and Casino de Charlevoix, recently accepted similar terms.
Eight Ontario casinos also ratify deals
Montreal Casino is not alone in its walkout efforts, however. Across the country, many of Canada’s casinos have hit the picket line of late.
In Ontario alone, there were eight establishments – all owned by the Great Canadian Casino Corporation – wanting to renegotiate terms. Six averted strikes.
But casino workers in Ajax and Pickering did strike for two weeks.