OPSEU Speaks Out Against Ontario Casino Layoffs

Ontario casino workers union president outraged by OLG layoffs.

Ontario Casino Workers Union President Outraged by OLG LayoffsThe Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has been awfully busy in the last few years, diligently working to sustain worthy pay rates and health benefits for the thousands of casino workers in the province. It hasn’t been easy – not since the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG) began implementing its “modernization” efforts a few years back.

Multiple properties, from Casino Rama to Caesars Windsor, have been forced to go on strike to show the OLG and operating managers that they mean business. Now, just as it looked like things were starting to get back to some sense of mutually beneficial normalcy, a global pandemic has sent the entire world into a tailspin, and its threatening to send millions of Canadians – including thousands of Ontario’s casino staffers – to the unemployment lines.

No one is arguing that businesses should not be closed as the novel coronavirus spreads faster by the day. However, the OLG’s reaction to the outbreak is what’s got OPSEU President Warren Thomas on edge. It is his heated opinion that OLG is only laying off employees in an effort to maintain an aesthetic revenue report come end of year, rather than one that comes up negative due to payroll compensation during these unprecedented times.

Ontario Casino Workers Union President Outraged by OLG Layoffs

On March 15, 2020, the government ordered all casinos to cease operation for two weeks. A date of March 29 was set to re-evaluate the situation. Now, before those weeks are even over, OLG is already distributing notices to casino workers in Ottawa that layoffs must and will take place.

Thomas was confounded by the decision of OLG. He said in a press release on Tuesday that he was left shaking his head at the news. Privatization of the province’s casinos – a process OLG calls “modernization” – has already taken its toll on the industry’s workers, and now its contributing to the unprotected layoffs of thousands of employees. As union members – as human beings – they should be protected in such situations. Instead, due to privatization, the government agency has essentially washed its hands of the matter.

“At a time when people need support the most, we are seeing workers being left to fend for themselves. Employers should do what’s right during this crisis: provide employees with salary continuance, full benefits, and not layoffs,” said Thomas.

The Union President goes on to point out that the OLG in no way lacking for finances. The Crown corporation draws in millions of dollars each year in sheer profit. Instead of protecting their greatest assets – the people that work for them – they are protecting their bottom line.

“This is a prime example of why privatization does not work,” Thomas explained. “These profits have been siphoned away from public use, which drastically lowers the ability of government to take care of its citizens. So, what we have now are employers who won’t take care of staff, and a government that while commendable in some of its current efforts around COVID-19 can’t provide Ontarians with the full support they need.”

Thomas was especially infuriated by the OLG’s willingness to shell out big bucks to top executives. Case in point – former OLG President and CEO Stephen Rigby. He was recently awarded $847,000 in severance pay upon retirement. All this, says Thomas, but “nothing for frontline workers who are the grease that keeps their machine moving.”

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