Baccarat & Palace Union Bargaining: An Optimistic Perspective Emerges

Union negotiations for contracts affecting both Palace Casino employees and Baccarat Casino employees are continuing. But the flavour and tone of negotiations for both groups have taken a positive turn.

Regarding the Baccarat, the announcement involving the opening of the new world class downtown casino has buoyed spirits and presented a bright future for Baccarat employees. That casino will undoubtedly raise revenues, spike customer volumes, and help many employees to gain access to enhanced gratuities. Baccarat employees will finally be able to work in an exciting and dynamic environment.

As a result of voting in to the NDF, employees have been well positioned to make fair contract demands. The threat of a strike at the Baccarat has challenged the company to turn its attention to its hardworking staff and their bargaining requests. In recent days the company has been much more positive in its approach at the bargaining table. They have tentatively agreed to very significant improvements in benefits and in other areas.

At the Palace there has also been a positive change in tone in the shadow of a threatened strike vote and an endorsement of the National Defense Fund. There, employees have not enjoyed the excitement associated with an announcement regarding a move to a shiny new facility. However, your union has pushed hard in arguing that Palace employees will not be treated as second-class citizens. The company has now responded with positive tentative changes to the Collective Agreement there as well. Improvements in benefits are on the table for the first time after over a year of negotiations and the company is openly saying they want to avoid a dispute.

While the turn at both bargaining tables is much appreciated by your bargaining committees and your union negotiators and representatives, it is important that the new optimism be tempered and guarded. A strike vote may still be necessary but now there is at least a chance that it will not.

At both casinos employees remain very concerned about the safety of their workplaces and related security issues. While we are headed in the right direction with respect to the issue of benefits improvements for those who are on the benefits plans, there continue to be concerns about the benefits entitlements for part-time employees. Palace employees face rumours that Gateway is considering moving their casino. Will they have the right to move to a new location if that occurs? The Baccarat employees certainly have that right and most are looking forward to the long awaited change.

At the Baccarat, there continue to be issues and some issues remain unresolved with respect to the movement to the new complex. The company has said that there will be no poker room in their new facility. Baccarat employees have enjoyed ample free downtown parking for years. As Edmonton’s downtown morphs into a high density Toronto-like environment, where will Baccarat employees park?

Fortunately, the company has been open to the concept of enhanced union assistance for the employees of both the Baccarat and the Palace during these times of change. We are trying to ensure that the union is more present than ever but that requires Gateway’s cooperation. It’s looking good in that regard.

Finally, no one can forget about the fundamental issue of wages and remuneration. Money is always a potential strike issue. Baccarat and Palace employees have been frustrated in recent years with the state of the business and declining tip revenues. The cost of living climbs and both groups feel like they’ve been called upon to hold these casinos together without the kind of financial compensation they deserve.

We are hoping there is a light at the end of this tunnel. There is cause for cautious optimism. But please be on guard. Circumstances change quickly and it is the job of your professional union representatives to keep pushing on your behalf. In the current more positive environment, please be reassured that we will continue to push so that your voice and your interests are not lost in the corporate boardrooms of Gateway and their Toronto based owners at Catalyst.

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