Dealers at Loto-Quebec’s Montreal Casino continued their strike into its second week yesterday with negotiations underway but progress at an impasse. The Unlimited General Strike began on Saturday, May 21, a week after croupiers walked off the job in work stoppages twice on the previous weekend.
Over 520 dealers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have been working without a collective bargaining agreement with the Crown Corporation casino since April 1, 2020.
The Union noted that the casino “has lost in profit the equivalent of what the croupiers are demanding at the bargaining table,” since the strike began about a week ago.
Loto-Québec management said over the weekend that despite the strike, all systems at the casino are running normally except the poker room which has been shuttered. Table games, slot machines, restaurants, and entertainment are all up and running normally, according to management.
Dueling Statements Issued
Both sides issued dueling statements to make their positions clear and to help the public be informed about the situation and what the sticking points in reaching an agreement are.
Casino management said in a statement: “Loto-Quebec is disappointed that the Montreal Casino dealers’ union is continuing to strike when all the elements necessary to reach an agreement were available, especially since the last two years have been difficult for casino employees.”
Among the bones of contention are paid break periods and a reduction in starting pay for new hires.
The croupiers are also asking for better scheduling practices to help reduce repetitive strain injuries. When workers first struck on May 21, Union representative Jean-Pierre Proulx said, “One in two of our employees suffers physical injuries due to the nature of the work, which includes dealing nearly 10,000 cards a day, five to six days a week,” Proulx said. “After 15 years on the job, that starts to add up”. Tendonitis and other internal injuries can result from repetitive motion.
Loto-Québec has not acknowledged an increase in injuries stating it has not noticed them, according to a spokesman.
Breaktimes Based on Hours Worked or Per Shift
For its part, CUPE union consultant Jean-Pierre Proulx stated in a news release: “The casino is a Crown corporation that brings a lot of money into the public coffers to pay for our health and education services. We want to continue to do our part to fill those coffers, but we can no longer do so at the expense of our health. At the moment, the dispute is about 15 minutes per day of break time that the employer does not want to pay for.”
The employer states that croupiers at Montreal Casino are asking for break times to be tied to each hour worked and they want 30 minutes off for each hour worked. The casino currently provides 2 hours of break time for an 8-hour shift. However, many dealers must work six days a week to accumulate 30 hours.
The Union says the casino only wants to pay new hires at 90% of the rate of the lowest salary scale with management countering that the rate is still 20 percent above market for entry-level workers.
Loto-Quebec said that it desires a responsible negotiated agreement and referred to previous agreements referencing “similar parameters to what has been agreed to by the same CUPE-affiliated employment bodies at other Loto-Quebec casinos, including the Casino du Lac-Leamy dealers.”
Dealers at Casino du Lac-Leamy walked off the job for a day nearly a decade ago when management attempted to place “casual dealers” on a 15-minute response time.
Patrick Desjardins, vice-president of Lac-Leamy’s SCFP 3993 at the time, said: “Right now they are allowed one hour to call back for a shift, obviously, they’re not allowed to refuse a shift because they’re casual. Management wants to cut that down to 15 minutes, which is basically holding them hostage in their own house.”
That and other issues including pay rates and the swapping of shifts rather than taking a forced vacation day were settled. In January 2022 union workers there reached tentative agreements for improved working conditions.
Source: Montreal Casino dealers’ strike continues, poker rooms remain closed, The Canadain Press, May 28, 2022
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