Gateway continues to pass out pink slips in mass of Casino Rama lay-offs.
On Thursday, July 19, precisely one year after Gateway Casinos & Entertainment took over the day to day managerial operations of Casino Rama in Orillia, Ontario, the company announced the dismissal of 70 employees from its payroll. The fact that Gateway waited 365 days is telling, as that is the exact amount of time the company agreed not to alter the staff when taking over the casino from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG).
The very first day Gateway was allowed to pass out pink slips, they did. A total of 65 full-time, unionized employees, and 5 part-timers were eliminated from the pay roll that day. Those with the longest tenure were bought out (or in Gateway’s words, took advantage of a “voluntary exit incentive program”), others were reassigned, and the rest were simply fired.
An estimated 40+ more who weren’t members of the Unifor union have also lost their positions. 110+ firings in under two weeks. It’s being seen as a devastating blow to the community of Orillia, and one the Union says it’s prepared to fight to the bitter end.
Gateway Blames ‘Business Efficiencies’ for Casino Rama Lay-Offs
In a statement attempting to excuse their behavior, Gateway Casinos said that, since taking over Ontario’s Central Bundle of casinos in July 2018, they’ve examined the properties closely “with the goal of maximizing their efficiency and providing the best customer experience possible.”
Apparently, the staff doesn’t fit into that equation; a negligible integer in the greater scheme of operations, for upon analysis, the company decided the best way – nay, the only way – to meet that goal was by letting go of more than one hundred employees.
“We examined all options and despite best efforts to minimize the impact on staff, these reductions are a necessary step as we maximize efficiency and begin the next stages of expansion to provide the best gaming entertainment experience across Ontario to our customers,” said Gateway.
Gateway blamed the mass lay-offs on a number of factors. First up were alterations to regulatory guidelines regarding hours of operation, in which OLG determined restaurants in casinos can no longer stay open 24/7. That resulted in the elimination of the overnight dining crew. Other reasons included “investments in new technology (new security and surveillance systems, Gaming Management System, other automation), and other basic business efficiencies.”
Union & Casino Rama Employees Outraged
Unifor President Corey Dalton expressed the unilateral outrage of everyone effected by the ‘dismantling’ of Casino Rama. “Words cannot begin to describe the amount of disappointment and anger we all share in this decision,” he said. “Gateway has wasted no time and literally provided notice of layoffs on the first day they were legally entitled to.”
Every staff member who’s spoken to local media shares the same sentiment. They feel Gateway is far more concerned about profits than the people who make their businesses tick. “Casino Rama has always been a great place to work,” said one employee, “until Gateway came along.”
Dalton spoke on behalf of everyone when he said, “We have watched Gateway take a casino that was once the crown jewel of the province and dismantle it within 365 days.”
One former employee said the blow to Orillia has been so devastating, he is selling his home and moving away. He blames the OLG for its “modernization” program, building so many new casinos in close proximity to their existing ones. He says Gateway isn’t “even trying to compete” for its share of the GTA market.
“It’s like they don’t care. They’ve removed table games and slots. There are bathrooms that are out of order for weeks, they’ve eroded the customer loyalty program that has really pissed off the patrons, they’ve offered buyouts to long-time employees … it’s ridiculous,” said the former employee.
Dalton agrees with that assessment. In its hay day, he said Casino Rama employed 2,000 staff member and catered to a consistently packed house. That number steadily dropped to 1,700, then, since Woodbine Casino was permitted to install table games, combined with the 110+ Casino Rama lay-offs that began last month, the payroll has dwindled to just 1,200 employees.
Despite the long odds, Unifor is prepared as always to fight tooth and nail for their members. The next step in their uphill battle is a Casino Rama Solidarity Rally scheduled for Thursday, August 8, at J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All Unifor members – especially those effected by the recent situation in Orillia – are encouraged to take part.