“Shut them down” and “We want answers” were some of the chants heard during a rally outside of the B.C. Lottery Corporation’s Kamloops office on Monday.
Some 20 to 30 members from the B.C. Government and Services Employees’ Union (BCGEU) gathered around noon to demand BCLC investigate Gateway Casinos’ operations during the strike.
Almost 700 BCGEU members working at four Gateway Casinos in the Thompson-Okanagan walked off the job on June 29 after mediation talks broke down. Wages and better working conditions are some of the sticking points.
The union is alleging Gateway has not been living up to its obligations under BCLC and provincial gaming laws and regulations during the job action.
That includes following the rules when it comes to ID’ing patrons and failing to identify what would normally be flagged as suspicious behaviour possibly related to money laundering, according to rally participants, who shouted the allegations at the lottery corporation's doors.
“Security officers are required to have a certification to provide security within the casinos. We’ve been told by the excluded management that are currently working those positions that they don’t have that certification,” says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU’s president.
She points to another incident, where a patron was very intoxicated, and repeatedly exited the casino to go to their car.
“That is red-flag behaviour that our members are trained to (identify),” says Smith. “We’re just concerned Gateway is putting profits before good decision making and keeping public assets safe.”
Smith assured media at the rally that the investigation was not a bargaining tactic.
“This is about raising awareness to BCLC that we think something needs to be investigated. How are these casinos operating behind our picket lines?”
Tanya Gabara, Gateway’s director of public relations, called the allegations “patently false” and “a desperate attempt to malign our business and employees.”
“The regulatory oversight for our properties remains the same even though the union took our employees on strike as we remain open for business at all four sites,” she wrote in an email to KamloopsMatters.
“Gaming in British Columbia is highly regulated and the Province of British Columbia, BCLC and Gateway have layers of security and oversight in place to keep casinos safe and enjoyable.
“We feel the BCGEU should focus on getting back to the bargaining table to allow these 675 employees to return to work instead of making false allegations that are unfounded and disappointing.”