Locked-out Rideau Carleton Raceway workers a safety risk, councillor says

Ottawa Coun. George Darouze says locked-out Rideau Carleton Raceway workers are harassing patrons and causing traffic-related safety issues along nearby roads as part of their picket.

George Darouze wants end to delays on Albion Road, llegally parked vehicles on High Road

High Road joins Albion Road near the Rideau Carleton raceway. Area residents and the councillor say they've seen vehicles parked on both sides that block mailboxes and driveways on some days. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

An Ottawa councillor says locked-out Rideau Carleton Raceway workers are harassing patrons and causing traffic-related safety issues along nearby roads as part of their picket.

Osgoode Councillor George Darouze says pickets at the Rideau Carleton Raceway have become a traffic and safety issue. (CBC)

"I have firsthand experience of protesters banging on vehicles until the drivers agree to roll down their windows and a petition is forced onto the driver which they are told to sign before they are allowed to pass," Coun. George Darouze wrote in an open letter, dated Thursday.

Darouze said delays at the picket line are causing dangerous backups on a busy Albion Road, which has blind spots near the raceway.

He also said picketers are parking on both sides of High Road near the raceway, which narrows the roadway and makes pedestrians walk on the street, while sometimes blocking driveways and mailboxes.

"Two weeks ago I was driving by here and [picketers] are walking down the middle of the road, people are opening and closing their doors, residents trying to get their mail, it's crazy," he said in an interview Friday.

"It triggered for me a safety concern, I don't want anyone to get hurt over this dispute. Disputes should be negotiations with the labour committee. My concern is the safety of my residents… and the safety of the [pickets] themselves." 

Darouze said he wants city bylaw officers to make sure people are parking legally in the area, which could include a temporary parking ban on one side of High Road.

'Accident ready to happen'

Steve Spratt is one of the owners of Falcon Ridge Golf Club and says pickets at the raceway shouldn't be able to stop cars like they are now. (CBC)

The councillor for Osgoode ward said he issued the letter after receiving "repeated calls and e-mails" from residents and business owners in his ward. 

One of them, an owner of nearby Falcon Ridge Golf Club, said he doesn't want people avoiding the area because of the issues.

"I've gone down Albion and they're stopping cars to go into the racetrack, that's a danger in itself," said Steve Spratt, who also lives nearby.

"Albion is a busy road. Cars are stopped and you try to pull in, you're halfway across, cars are coming either way and you could cause an accident. It's an accident ready to happen." 

Roger Chapman,  the head of the city's bylaw and regulatory services, told CBC News in an email that his department is working with Darouze and Ottawa police" to ensure safety and mobility in the area."

Locked-out since Dec. 15

The regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the locked-out workers, said in an interview Friday that Ottawa police haven't had anything bad to say about their picket line during their daily visits.

"At no time has the Ottawa police asked us, not once in the past three weeks, to cease and desist what we're doing or to change what we're doing. Every time they've come they've simply noticed the picket line is peaceful," said Larry Rousseau.

"Yes, it may cause some traffic delays but those traffic delays have not been a serious concern for public safety… after three weeks we can say we're very satisfied with the way this picket line particularly has taken place."

Rousseau said nobody has been forced to sign a petition before getting to the raceway.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) locked out about 125 workers on December 15, causing reduced slot hours, after contract negotiations stalled.

PSAC said they haven't had a raise since 2008-09 and want to make sure their pension plans are protected in case OLG is sold, while OLG said the contract it's offering is consistent with other casinos in the province.

The OLG told CBC News in an email that it is willing to resume negotiations to resolve the dispute, and ask that union members be aware of patrons and motorists in the area as they exercise their right to picket.

"While OLG Slots at Rideau Carleton is open for business during this labour dispute and we respect the union's right to picket, we ask that union be mindful of any traffic disruptions that could cause a risk to anyone entering the property at Rideau Carleton Raceway," OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti wrote in an email.