It came down to the wire, but a major workers strike at six Great Canadian Gaming Corporation casinos in Ontario was averted late Friday night after the bargaining committees for Unifor union members signed a tentative agreement.
Union members will formally vote on the new terms of the deal this week and the details will be revealed shortly thereafter.
Over 1,500 workers at the Great Blue Heron Casino, Casino Woodbine, Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands, Shorelines Casino Peterborough, and security workers at Elements Casino Mohawk and Elements Casino Brantford have all signed tentative agreements and there will be no work stoppages at these locations.
“Gaming sector workers were pivotal to ensuring GCGC casinos rebounded following the COVID-19 shutdowns,” said Chris MacDonald, assistant to the Unifor national president, in an email. “It has been a very difficult period for casino workers and these tentative agreements are a step in the right direction.”
Unifor members at GCGC properties were seeking improvements to wages, benefits, and pensions. They were also lobbying for more full-time jobs.
Great Canadian Gaming, which has 25 properties across four Canadian provinces, heavily opposed the launch of Ontario’s regulated iGaming and sports betting market by publishing a report that stated Ontario’s government could lose $550 million annually by shifting to an open market.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy.
Workers strike at two Durham casinos
It wasn’t all good news over the weekend, though, as workers at two Durham Region casinos — Pickering Casino Resort and Casino Ajax — owned by CGGC couldn’t reach a tentative deal by Friday at midnight and are now on strike for an indefinite period.
“There is an unacceptable gap in the wages and benefits between workers doing the same job for the same employer an hour down the highway,” said Corey Dalton, president of Local 1090, in an email. “This strike is about fair working conditions across the gaming sector during uncertain economic times.”
Unifor members at @PickeringCasino are standing up for good wages and full-time jobs. Check out the photo album from the first day on the picket line: https://t.co/vJIApLPXNo pic.twitter.com/9Om52gUqJX
— Unifor (@UniforTheUnion) July 24, 2022
Casino Ajax posted the following statement on its website:
We have been in negotiations with Unifor in recent weeks in an effort to reach an agreement that provides our team members at Casino Ajax with fair and attractive wages, benefits and careers. Regrettably, Unifor has rejected our offer and has chosen to strike.
The two venues will still be open 24/7 and offer slots and electronic table games to patrons, but other amenities, such as onsite restaurants, will have reduced hours. Unifor members are suggesting patrons avoid the two casinos affected by the strike to avoid delays due to labor shortages and visit nearby Casino Rama or Great Blue Heron Casino instead.
Table games will not be available at Pickering Casino during the strike period.
Retail sports betting, other than Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s PROLINE games, is prohibited in Ontario.
Both casinos are located in populous areas just to the east of Toronto, Canada’s largest city with roughly three million inhabitants.
The land-based casino industry in the province and across Canada is desperately trying to rebound from rolling COVID-19 closures over the past couple years.