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Union responds to Gateway Casinos' letter to Kamloops

The two sides will meet later this week on June 15
(via Pixabay)

The union representing workers at Cascades Casino in Kamloops is not impressed with a public letter issued by Gateway Casinos on Tuesday.

Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), is taking issue with statements in the letter, and the fact it was even written.

"They say they've been disappointed by us," she says. "It'd be fair to say we're disappointed negotiating in the public sphere."

There were a few points in the letter that Smith says are unfair; in particular, the company's statement that "the union refused to meet with us until early in 2018." Smith says the statement is completely untrue, and while there were some issues with scheduling logistics, the union has come to the table anytime a date has been set.

The letter also has issues around context, she says, pointing to a quote of hers they use about how much casino companies make.

Wages are a major sticking point in negotiations, and Smith says Gateway is misleading people by stating wage increases as percentages instead of real dollar amounts. She says that increase would be for people earning minimum or close to minimum wage, to bring them into alignment with industry standards.

"Contextually, what we're looking at are very low wage earners," she tells KamloopsMatters. "It sounds much bigger than it actually is because of the starting point."

In the letter, Gateway says an average increase of 62 per cent was being demanded. Minimum wage up until recently was $11.35 an hour; a 62 per cent increase would raise it by about $7.

Smith says the company's last offer wouldn't have increased wages past the government's new minimum wage of $12.65 (as of June 1).

The letter also offers up examples of the company's involvement in the community, and Smith says that's good, but the company is able to do things like that because of the workers in the casinos.

"When they spoke about feeding people during the wildfires, that's true, but that wouldn't have happened without the workers," she says. "All of that is reliant upon the workers that work in those casinos."

While more than 90 per cent of BCGEU members working at Gateway casinos voted in favour of a strike, Smith says she's optimistic about a mediation date set for later this week, on June 15.


Brendan Kergin

About the Author: Brendan Kergin

Brendan Kergin is a digital reporter based in Kamloops.
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