Edmonton

Dozens of Grand Villa Casino employees will be laid off, union rep says

Dozens employees at the downtown Grand Villa Casino will be laid off, including several who received their notices of termination this week.

Several full-time and part-time employees have already been terminated since Tuesday

The gaming floor at Grand Villa Casino in downtown Edmonton. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Dozens of employees at the Grand Villa Casino in downtown Edmonton face layoffs, including some who received their notices of termination this week.

Since Tuesday, company representatives at the 60,000-square-foot casino across from Rogers Place arena have been handing out layoff notices, said Michael Hughes, a communications representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

The layoffs are happening in all areas of the casino, including Starbucks, Hughes told CBC News on Thursday.

Employees of Sbarro Pizza, Vera's Burger Shack and Pinkberry have also been laid off and the restaurants have been shut down.

"We had our union representative there as well as legal counsel with people to ensure the collective agreement was being respected," Hughes said.

He told CBC News that some full-time workers have been given the option to reduce their status to part-time. They have until Friday to decide.

Reports of the layoffs came approximately two weeks after Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited, which owns Grand Villa, announced in a news release it was reducing hours because of low traffic.

"These temporary operational changes are necessary due to the lack of business caused by the extensive delays in the construction in the downtown core and lack of well-lit surface parking in close proximity to the casino," Tanya Gabara, Gateway's director of public relations, said Thursday in a statement.

Gabara said the company and the union have agreed to a "workforce adjustment" plan intended to minimize the impact on employees.

Employees have been offered options, she said, to take a "voluntary exit package," to move to Gateway's other casino in Edmonton or to change from full-time to part-time.

"It is difficult to state an exact number of impacted employees at this time until all of these options have been explored with our employees, which is our priority," Gabara said.

Starting on Sept. 15, the casino will only be open Thursday to Sunday from noon to 1 a.m., though it will remain open for all major events and concerts at Rogers Place.

'We're blindsided'

Hughes said casino employees were warned about the reduced hours but weren't told exactly what that meant.

"The layoffs are disappointing and we're blindsided by it," he said.

Workers felt betrayed, Hughes said, because they were in a collective bargaining with Gateway Casinos in the spring and the company came in with what he called a heavy-handed approach.

"Basically threatened the employees with a lockout if they didn't take a number of concessions to their contract," Hughes said. "Our members voted to accept those takeaways with the promise that the company would be able to try and turn things around."

Blaming construction or the economy is unreasonable because many businesses continue to operate downtown, the union representative said.

Hughes said employees will receive benefits for up to six months after termination and will be placed on a recall list in case there are any openings.

The casino opened in September 2016.

Before the layoffs, it had 226 unionized employees — 83 full-time and 143 part-time.

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