Lockout begins at OLG Woodbine Racetrack

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Woodbine Racetrack. Photo: mpancha/flickr

Slot machine workers at the OLG Woodbine Racetrack have been locked out. 

The lockout began on July 14, after the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the union representing the workers, failed to agree on a new contract. Workers began picketing outside the site on the morning of July 14.

Slot machines at the province's largest gaming floor remain open. Rui Brum, spokesperson for OLG, said mainly non-unionized workers and managers are working the slot machines. The electronic poker room is closed and the onsite courtesy shuffle isn't running. Coat check hours are reduced.

The union and OLG reached a tentative agreement on July 5, but workers rejected it. According to a statement from the union, the OLG sent the workers a letter saying it would lock them out by July 14, the legal deadline for a strike or lockout. PSAC sent OLG a revised offer on July 12. OLG rejected the offer.

The offer doesn't address workers' concerns about scheduling, said Sharon DeSousa, PSAC's executive vice-president for Ontario. Most of the more than 400 slot workers are part time. Their schedules are unpredictable, she said. Many don't receive more than two days' notice of their schedule. This makes having a work-life balance nearly impossible, and can make it difficult to plan for family responsibilities, like caring for parents or children.

Workers have to take shifts when they're called in, said DeSousa, and that "really puts (them) in a precarious position." The slots are open 24 hours a day, so shifts can be at all hours of the day or night.

Some workers are classified as part time, even though they work full-time hours. Many have been working like this for more than 10 years, said DeSousa. "They've just had enough," she said.

Part-time workers don't receive the same benefits as full-time workers. Full-time workers have six sick days, she said.

Brum told rabble.ca in an email that part-time workers are entitled to three lieu days. They can cash out these days to use if they're sick. They also have 10 unpaid emergency days. He said part-time employees are paid the same as their full-time colleagues, and are eligible for health, dental and life insurance, depending on the hours they work.

He said the OLG's offer included ways for employees to have more input into their schedules.

Brum said wage increases were the main concern of the contract dispute. In a statement, OLG said it offered "fair and reasonable" wage and lump sum offers. The corporation also said it is willing to go to arbitration to reach an agreement.

This dispute is the latest to happen at OLG facilities. Slot machine workers at OLG-operated Rideau Carleton racetrack in Ottawa were on strike from December 2015 to May 2016. PSAC also represents these workers.

Security guards at Woodbine were on strike last summer. Those workers are represented by SEIU Local 2.

Meagan Gillmore is rabble.ca's labour reporter.

Photo: mpancha/flickr

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