Québec Casinos Employees Go On Strike Ahead Of Montréal Grand Prix

Written By Matthew Lomon on June 16, 2023 - Last Updated on July 10, 2023
On Strike

Earlier this month, news broke that Québec casino employees threatened to strike during Montréal Grand Prix weekend.

Yesterday afternoon, over 1,700 workers from four casinos, including Casino de Montréal – the largest Canadian casino – officially went on strike. CSN, the union representing the workers, says that staff members from Quebec casinos at Gatineau, Mont-Tremblant, and Charlevoix gaming facilities have also walked out.

As it stands, the labour union’s main gripe with its employer, Loto-Québec, continues to revolve around wages. Casino workers are seeking increased pay to accommodate for the rising cost of living, while Loto-Québec refuses to budge.

According to the Crown Corporation, it has already made two “generous” offers to the union in the last few months. However, the CSN argues that those offers have remained the same since the end of February.

Altogether, negotiations have lasted over year, per Riccardo Scopelleti, president of security workers at the Montreal Casino.

“We’re sending the message, we want to return to the table, we want to negotiate.”

New conflict emerges over Loto-Québec’s recent annual financial report

On June 7, Loto-Québec released its annual report for the 2022-23 fiscal year, touting the results as its “best year ever.” In the same statement, it was noted that executive vice president, Kevin G. Taylor, saw his yearly salary jump from $375,461 to $504,498. The math on that comes out to a 34% increase in earnings year over year.

Unsurprisingly, this development is not sitting well with union members seeking higher wages.

“They’ve had record profits for 17 years, it’s deplorable,” said Scopelleti.

Another point of note from the annual report is that the casino and gaming hall sector saw the highest revenue increase, percentage wise, of any sector under the Loto-Québec umbrella. Specifically, this grouping generated $1.1 billion in revenue, which is up $444 million or 67.6% over the previous fiscal year.

Strike initially planned for use “at the right moment”

The cryptic nature of a statement like “at the right moment” had Loto-Québec concerned that Grand Prix weekend was at stake. Nearly two weeks later, the provincial regulator’s worst fear is now reality.

But that shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering 91% of union members voted in favour of a five-day strike.

To that point, Loto-Québec expressed its disappointment in the CSN for going through with the strike instead of continuing negotiations. It also says that talks around the normative and monetary components of the collective agreement were finalized in December.

The employer went on to say that the value of CSN’s demands are more than double what other employees of the organization received last year.

CSN demands coincide with ripple effects of COVID-19 closures

In short, the CSN is asking for a pay raise that reflects the rising cost of living plus one dollar per hour. According to Scopelleti, aftershocks from the pandemic are still affecting working conditions.

“We’ve lived through three closures during COVID…. We’re working short-staffed, there are departments that are still closed.”

Notably, all four of the aforementioned casinos will remain open during Grand Prix weekend, per Loto-Québec. However, some services may be limited. Additionally, its online gaming site will remain active, but the corresponding call centre will be offline.

The Mont-Tremblant casino closed temporarily due to the strike but has since reopened, while Trois-Rivières and Quebec City gaming halls will remain unaffected by the labour dispute.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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