Manitoba casinos recalling staff, preparing to reopen quickly, says union

There are strong signs Manitoba's casinos will re-open July 2, says the union representing some workers at the government-run facilities.

Workers going through orientation for 'different rules … that none of us are used to'

Casinos were not part of the Phase 3 reopening strategy, which begins June 22. (CBC)

There are strong signs Manitoba's casinos will re-open July 2, says the union representing some workers at the government-run facilities. 

"What we know for sure is that the supervisors have been called into work as soon as June 22nd to do the orientation on what the new norm is going to be," said Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union.

Food and beverage workers represented by the union will be asked to come in shortly thereafter for their own orientation and to do the preparation work necessary to get those services ready, she added.

"When folks are doing your orientation of course then the expectation is that they're going to be returning to work fairly soon. It's kind of been suggested in the past that July 2nd the casinos would be opening up.

"We still don't have an official date as of yet but with orientation being done fairly soon you would surmise that they're going to be opening up quickly."

Casinos were not among the many businesses and services listed earlier this week by the province as as being allowed to reopen or expand their openings when Phase 3 kicks in on June 22.

Casinos like Club Regent in Winnipeg have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Google Street View)

Asked about the MGEU's speculation, the government remained tight-lipped on Friday.

"We're following recommendations from public health officials and the opening of casinos will be considered in the coming weeks," a spokesperson for Crown Services said in an email response.

A Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries spokesperson simply said the province has not yet announced definitive dates for reopening any of casinos, then echoed what the other spokesperson said.

"As plans to carefully reopen our province for business proceed through a phased approach, we look forward to the time we can welcome guests back to the Casinos of Winnipeg in a safe and responsible manner. Until this time, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries and the Casinos of Winnipeg will continue to follow Manitoba Health's directions and orders."

Any future updates regarding reopening dates will be posted on the Casinos of Winnipeg website.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin was also asked Thursday about why casinos weren't part of the Phase 3 plan, even though VLT lounges and bingo halls will be allowed to open at 50 per cent occupancy.

"If we look at just the grand scale of the casinos and just how many patrons could possibly be in there, I think that's that's the type of thing that's going to just take a bit longer to work out, just to ensure that we have a real solid plan," he said. 

"It just didn't make it into Phase 3. But we certainly have casinos on our mind."

The MGEU has 252 members at casinos in Manitoba and though most have a lot of experience in the job, they need to get used to a new normal under COVID-19, Gawronsky said.

"There's different rules in place that none of us are used to," she said. "How are the casinos going to be set up? We know that social distancing still has to take place so between machines how are they going to maintain the six feet? They're going to have to wipe down the machines in between [uses]. Do the patrons have to come in with masks or are masks going to be provided by the casinos. Do we have to wear gloves while we're there.?

"All of that will have to be set up in the casinos as much as it's being set up in any of the stores."