Casino union fires back

The president of the BCGEU says she shares Gateway Casinos' disappointment at the failure of mediation talks last week.

Gateway Casinos in Kelowna, Kamloops, Penticton and Vernon have been behind picket lines since June 29, when union members walked off the job to strike for better pay.

"One thing we share is disappointment that we were unable to come to an agreement," Stephanie Smith said Wednesday.

She said the union has "moved substantially" on previous demands of a 40 per cent pay increase.

"We are trying to get our members wages that allow them to live and support families in their communities," said Smith. "We don't believe our proposals are outrageous."

She called the focus by the company on percentages is distracting.

Smith said she was on the picket line in Kamloops on Saturday, where she spoke with one woman who has been with the company for 15 years, yet still only makes $12.65 an hour.

"It's not possible to live in the Okanagan on that."

She said Gateway is distracting from reasonable demands for a living wage, by focusing on big numbers when the company is "keeping employees just at or even below minimum wage increases."

Gateway says it has offered raises ranging from seven to 19 per cent. The B.C. minimum wage is climbing incrementally to $15 an hour by 2021.

Smith said casino workers in Penticton, or Richmond or even in other provinces should be paid similar wages for doing the exact same job.

The striking workers have been out for more than 10 weeks, but Smith said their resolve remains strong.

"We have a healthy defence fund for this purpose," she said.

No further talks have been scheduled, but Smith said the bargaining committee "is ready to go back anytime the company is ready to be serious."

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