Woodbine Casino Employees Locked Out During labor Dispute; Gateway Re-Opens More Casinos

After a major Canadian gaming company saw workers out of their jobs for two weeks because of a ransomware attack, workers at another property are locked out of their jobs because of a labor dispute.

Almost 1,000 employees at Casino Woodbine racetrack took to protesting outside the facility on Monday after the property’s owner locked them out after the union rejected Woodbine Entertainment Group’s latest contract offer last week.

A Look at the Labor Dispute

Casino Woodbine is an Ontario casino located in Toronto and is part of Great Canadian Entertainment’s portfolio of gaming properties. Employees at the casino are seeking more job security and guaranteed hours, according to local Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) union president Theo Lagakos told CTV News.

“We have 50 percent of the workforce over here that’s part time and for the longest time the workers have wanted to have at least three days, three shifts per week, in order to maintain their standard of living and the employer is not budging,” he said. “They don’t want to guarantee any hours of work. And that’s extremely problematic to people. We feel that these jobs are very precarious in that way.”

The PSAC represents about 230,000 workers in every province and territory in Canada. Along with those in the gaming industry, the union also includes federal workers, government corporations, universities, community services agencies, airports, the security industry, and more. The union was founded in 1966 and is one of Canada’s largest unions, with headquarters in Ottawa and 23 other regional offices across the country.

Woodbine workers in the union run the gamut among casino staff including gaming dealers, cleaning crew, cashiers, and more. Talks between the two sides appear to have broken down and Lagakos said the union is open to more discussion with management.

“It’s really up to the employer (when talks resume),” he told CTV. “They’re the ones who have locked us out. They’re the ones that are not coming to the table. So we’re just going to wait out there until they decide to change their mind.”

The casino appears to have remained open in some capacity, according to a post from property management on Twitter.

“You may have heard Casino Woodbine is involved in a labor dispute with PSAC that may cause delays or impact some amenities during your visit,” the company noted. “All Great Canadian Rewards destinations in the GTA (greater Toronto area) continue to operate 24/7. We thank you for your patience and support during these times.”

Dispute Follows Great Canadian Labor Deal in 2022

The Woodbine dispute isn’t the only dispute Great Canadian Entertainment has seen recently. The company reached a deal in July with union employees at two Ontario casinos in August. The employees were represented by Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union with more than 315,000 members.

The company and union workers at casinos in Ajax and Pickering reached a four-year deal that included “‘significant wage increases’ that average 17 percent over the life of the agreement, with some workers receiving more than a 25 percent raise. The two sides also established a new full-time/part-time ratio that is estimated to create between 120 and 150 new full-time positions ‘immediately,'” according to Canadian Gaming Business.

About 800 casino employees went on strike in late July. Like at Woodbine, both properties managed to stay open but table games were shut down. The agreement came with additional employee benefits, layoff and recall improvements, added bereavement pay, and expanded scheduling and vacation benefits. That included up to 32 hours of new paid time off.

Sudbury Casino Reopens After Ransomware Issues

In other news, Gateway Casinos’ properties in Sudbury and Thunder Bay reopened for business on Friday. The company, which operates 29 gaming properties in Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia, was forced to close several casinos after the cyber attack.

As the company’s IT team and outside experts worked to resolve the attacks, Gateway has slowly been reopening properties over the last week. The two latest reopenings saw the Sudbury and Thunder Bay initially offering only slot machine play and limited food and drink service. That was expanded to a full service option on Saturday.

The cyber attack issue has been a major obstacle for the company and experts believe the ransomware attacks may cost the company millions of dollars. Company officials thanked guests and employees for their patience in the matter.

“We appreciate the patience of our customers, employees and government partners while we work to restore our operations,” the company noted in a statement. “While this has been an unfortunate incident we will continue to work with our third party experts to determine the impacts to personal information, if any, and will keep you updated as we resolve this cyber incident.”

Sean Chaffin is a longtime freelance writer, editor, and former high school journalism teacher. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M University, his work has appeared in numerous publications and websites. Sean has covered the gaming and poker industry for many years and also writes about about numerous other topics.