Back to work

Casino workers had been on strike for nearly five months.

In the end, the two sides in the bitter, 19-week-long casino strike in Penticton, Vernon, Kelowna and Kamloops decided to take the high road.

On Friday, after unionized workers voted 50.7 per cent in favour of a new contract on Thursday, there was none of the name calling and rhetoric that characterized the dispute that started June 29.

“I am so impressed by the solidarity and courage of our members,” said Stephanie Smith of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union in a news release.

“They should be proud of what they achieved by sticking together throughout the bargaining process, especially over the past 19 weeks on the picket line.”

The 702 unionized dealers, slot attendants, cashiers, count-room, kitchen, maintenance and guest service workers and security guards work at Gateway Casinos, the operator of Cascades in Penticton and Kamloops, Lake City in Vernon and Playtime in Kelowna.

“We are pleased with the outcome of the vote and thank the bargaining committees that worked tirelessly to design an agreement that would fairly reward our employees while remaining reasonable for the businesses we operate in these communities,” read a statement issued by Gateway.

The nice prepared communiques from the union and casinos were in marked contrast to some of the nasty exchanges of the past 4 1/2 months.

At times, the union said the casinos had “no respect” for workers and Gateway’s wage proposals were “insulting.”

The casinos called the union “simply not reasonable” and “out of touch.”

On Friday, both the union and Gateway seemed to prefer to convey information via news releases rather than interviews with media, to keep the messages controlled and avoid having to elaborate on the toll the lengthy strike has taken on both sides.

The four-year deal ratified by unionized workers includes an average 23.5 per cent wage increase over the life of the agreement and improved benefits, particularly for part-time workers.

Most of the casino workers start at the B.C. minimum wage of $12.65 an hour, which the union doesn’t consider a living wage.

Initially, the union was after a wage bump of over 40 per cent, while Gateway was offering an 86-cent-an-hour rise over three years.

Of the 702 unionized workers, 511 cast ballots in the ratification vote.

Of those, 259, or 50.7 per cent, voted in favour, while 252, or 49.3 per cent, were against acceptance.

“The ratification vote was close, which means there is more work to be done in all four of these workplaces. That work starts as soon as the picket lines come down,” said Smith in the union’s press release.

Gateway’s prepared statement made no reference to the ratification being a squeaker.

Over the next few days, the four casinos will operate the same limited hours as during the strike, before returning to normal openings next week.

They are:

— In Penticton, noon to 11 p.m. today, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday with a return Nov. 13 to normal operating hours of 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

— In Vernon, open today from noon to midnight and closed on Monday and Tuesday. Starting Wednesday, open noon to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and noon to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

— In Kelowna, open noon to 2 a.m. today and Sunday, with regular hours resuming Wednesday of 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

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