For the third time in less than a month, croupiers at Montreal Casino are on strike.
Salary cutbacks and poor working conditions at Montreal Casino are the trigger points this time around. Workers took their discontent to the picket line on May 22.
The act is considered an unlimited general strike and will continue until negotiations with Loto-Quebec – the provincial operator of casinos – are resolved. Earlier in May, two work stoppages occurred due to stalled negotiations.
The previous collective agreement expired on March 31, 2020. The contract protects 521 unionized dealers at the Montreal Casino.
Union: Work-related injuries ‘staggering’ due to faulty schedule
Jean Pierre-Proulx is the union representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
He says time worked and rest periods are two issues that need resolution.
According to Proulx, because of shortened shifts, croupiers often have to work six days a week with little rest in between. Tendinitis and repetitive strain injuries are common among employees as a result.
Proulx called the number of employees suffering from work-related injuries “staggering.”
“One in two of our employees suffers physical injuries due to the nature of the work, which includes dealing nearly 10,000 cards a day, five to six days a week,” said Proulx via the Montreal Gazette.
“After 15 years on the job, that starts to add up,” he added.
Croupiers asking for 30-minute paid breaks for each hour worked
However, Loto-Quebec isn’t buying it.
“The company does not observe the increase in injuries mentioned by the union,” said Loto-Quebec, via a media release.
But there is an even bigger issue at hand.
According to Loto-Quebec, croupiers want 30 minutes of paid break for each hour worked.
“They would therefore spend more than 30 per cent [sic] of their shift on paid break, which is unusual in the industry and the other casinos of the company.”
Proulx: Proposed salary cutbacks ‘irresponsible’
The other side of that coin is Loto-Quebec’s attempt to decrease starting salaries by 10%.
Currently, employees earn $18.40 an hour. But, according to Proulx, Loto-Quebec wants $17.44 an hour. Proulx said:
“In the current context of labour shortages, (the salary reduction) is irresponsible, and the union will never accept it.”
Loto-Quebec counters its croupiers have an entry salary of more than 20% above the typical market benchmark.
Bonuses and tips can push that even higher.
Given this, Loto-Quebec says a croupier’s hourly wage can double in certain circumstances, making the decrease in salary reasonable.
Montreal Casino still open for business
Despite the drama, it’s business as usual at Montreal Casino.
Operations at the gaming tables will continue with some premier services on offer, such as:
The Montreal poker lounge will be closed, however.
The disagreement between the two parties does not impact Loto-Quebec’s other establishments.
Negotiations to continue between union and lottery
With that said, it will be interesting to see how strife affects the business. It has been a tumultuous year for Canada’s largest land-based casino.
The latest rally worked its way from St. Helen’s Island metro station to Montreal Casino – a nearly 30-minute walk for the public to see.
The first pressure tactics kicked off on March 15 when workers showed up wearing union tees.
At the time, 97.4% of the employees voted in favour of the tactic.
Negotiations are ongoing between the two parties.