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Union has 'I told you so' moment as layoffs hit privatized casino sites

Gateway Casinos says cuts are due to automation, shorter operating hours
sudbury downs 2016
Gateway Casinos Sudbury announced Monday that seven of its 40 unionized workers will be laid off, and Unifor, the union representing those workers, said in a news release the job loss is the direct result of privatization in Ontario gaming operations. (File)

SUDBURY — Unifor, the union representing laid off workers at Gateway Casinos Sudbury, said in a news release the job loss is the direct result of privatization in Ontario gaming operations.

Gateway announced Monday that seven of its 40 unionized workers will be laid off at Sudbury Downs. The news comes after the private casino operator announced an unspecified number of layoffs this week at its Gateway Casino Sault Ste. Marie.

In response, the company said the Sudbury job cuts are a result of automation – new security cameras and automated payouts, for example – as well as their decision to reduce operating hours. 

In its news release, Unifor said the job cuts was the reason the union opposed privatization.

“Gateway’s decision to reduce the hours of operation at most of its Ontario casinos is a perfect example of why Unifor was against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation modernization plan all along,” Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, is quoted as saying in the release. “Unifor stated all along that the sale of a Crown corporation and its operations will negatively affect workers and good jobs in Ontario, and Gateway is doing just that.”

The largest union in the gaming sector, Unifor expressed great concern about the privatization of gaming after the OLG outsourced gaming operations and sold off assets the British Columbia-based Gateway Casinos and Entertainment enterprise purchased several facilities across Ontario.

In addition to the layoff announcement of four full-time and three part-time workers at the Sudbury casino, who are represented by Unifor Local 598, there will be a layoff of six positions at Gateway Casino Point Edward, and another six at Gateway Casinos Dresden, who are represented by Local 444. The total layoffs amount to 19 positions.

At all three casinos, Unifor is working with the company to minimize or eliminate the need for layoffs.

“We’ll be talking with the employer and union members to discuss a variety of options to save good jobs and support workers and their families,” Richard Paquin, national representative who is working with Local 598 in Sudbury, said in the news release. “If we’re successful, fewer workers will be laid off because no worker should have to pay the price of job loss resulting from privatization.”

In a statement, Gateway said it has been reviewing operations at the casinos it has taken over from the OLG and has introduced a number of new technologies.

“(That) includes an automated gaming management system that lets customers redeem their rewards instantly, with no need for coupons or lineups at the cash cage,” the statement said. “We have also upgraded and modernized our security and surveillance systems, accounting software and at some sites, we are reducing hours of operation to better address market demand.

“As a consequence of these operational adjustments, Gateway has had to reduce staff at several locations. The majority of the proposed staff reductions are being made through a voluntary exit incentive program, staff reassignments and the remainder through layoff.”

Staff who have lost jobs can apply for future employment at new casinos being built in Chatham, London, Sudbury, North Bay and Kenora in the next two years, the statement said.
“Over the next two and half years, Gateway will be investing more than half billion dollars into the Ontario economy and when work is completed at all its sites, Gateway will have created more than 1,000 new jobs in Ontario,” the statement said.

In its release, Unifor said when the OLG allowed privatization of casinos, Gateway was only required to guarantee jobs in the current position and location for one year, and the new employer had to provide workers with benefits and a pension.

“As a result of the privatization scheme and weak requirements, workers livelihoods have been left to the whim of corporate profits,” the release said. “For most facilities, the OLG one-year obligation arrangement ended in May.”



Darren MacDonald

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