B.C.'S UNION SINCE 1919

Casino workers say they cannot get by on Gateway wages - BCGEU


Striking workers speak out about need for family-supporting wages

(Thompson-Okanagan) As the strike at Gateway Casinos in the Thompson-Okanagan continues, BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) members are opening up about why they are holding out for fair wages despite being on the picket line for over three months.

"Over the years I've struggled as a single mom to make ends meet," said Cheryl, a slot attendant who has worked at Gateway Casino in Penticton for over ten years.

"With the wages Gateway has been paying, I've had barely enough money to put food on the table," continued Cheryl. "After picking and choosing which bills I could pay, there has been no money left over for things like holidays or extra-curricular activities for my kids. Some years I couldn't even afford school photos." (read Cheryl's story in full below)

A cook at Playtime Casino in Kelowna, who has asked not to be named, described how he and his wife, who both work full-time jobs, find it difficult to provide for their family.

"I'm a proud father of four kids, but working two jobs like I do, I don't get a lot of time to spend with them," said the cook.

"My son has autism, and the extra costs for learning aids, medication, and other tools to help him cope add up. We are only able to take him to his much-needed therapy one day a week because we can't afford anything more than what the government pays for. My benefits don't help with that at all." (read cook's full story below)

"Our members' stories are heartbreaking illustrations of the cost of Gateway's 'profits before people' approach," said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. "It's shameful for a multimillion-dollar casino company to force the employees that make it profitable to live in poverty."

Smith continued "I'm inspired by our members' resolve to do whatever it takes to get the wages and benefits they deserve and I'm proud to say they're union is behind them 100%."

Mediated talks between Gateway Casinos and over 675 members of the BCGEU in the Thompson-Okanagan broke off in September after the company refused to release financial information to back up claims that they cannot afford the workers' wage proposals.

BCGEU represents staff spread across Gateway's four casinos in the Thompson-Okanagan: Playtime Casino in Kelowna, Lake City Casino in Vernon, and Cascades Casinos in Kamloops and Penticton. BCGEU members work in table games, as slot attendants, cashiers, in the count room, kitchen, security, guest services and maintenance.

Cheryl's story in full: 

"I've been with Gateway Casinos in Penticton for over 10 years. I first worked in the cash cage and then switched to being a slot attendant to get shifts. 
 
Over the years I've struggled as a single mom to make ends meet. With the wages Gateway has been paying, I've had barely enough money to put food on the table. After picking and choosing which bills I could pay there has been no money left over for things like holidays or extra-curricular activities for my kids. Some years I couldn't even afford school photos.
 
Even with tips it's hard to get by. Having to hope that you get enough in tips at the end of the month to pay rent is stressful. If you get sick you don't get tips. If you take time off you don't get tips. 
 
Because of the low wages, I haven't been able to save any money. Six years ago, I had to have my teeth pulled and now, because of complications, it's going to cost me $10,000 to get dentures. I don't have that kind of money and my benefits will not cover much. I don't know what I'm going to do.
 
The wage increase I would get with Gateway's offer is not much more than 50 cents per hour. That won't help me get my teeth fixed. The fact that they have no recognition for long-term employees and are offering no increases to benefits is an extra slap in the face for me personally. I'll be out here on the picket line until they step up and pay us what we are worth."

Photo of Cheryl at Cascades Penticton Picket Line
 
Playtime Casino Cook's story in full:
 
"I'm a cook at Playtime Casino in Kelowna and my wife and I are struggling to get by. We both work full-time-I even have a second job-and we still live paycheque-to-paycheque. 
 
I'm a proud father of four kids, but working two jobs like I do, I don't get a lot of time to spend with them. My son has autism, and the extra costs for learning aids, medication, and other tools to help him cope add up. We are only able to take him to his much-needed therapy one day a week because we can't afford anything more than what the government pays for. My benefits don't help with that at all.
 
I'm on strike because Gateway is not offering a living wage. I make maybe $30 in tips per week-if that. No one in the kitchen makes more than an average of about $1 an hour in tips. We cannot rely on tips to survive.
 
It's the little things-we have to pay for our own parking when we work at Playtime. We aren't allowed to use the customer parking. Anytime there is an event near the casino I have to get to work a lot earlier just to find a spot.
 
Gateway is a multimillion-dollar company and they can afford show us some respect and pay a decent wage."



UWU/MoveUP