Montreal

Croupiers at Montreal Casino launch unlimited strike as negotiations hit impasse

Last weekend, unionized staff held a pair of four-hour strikes to denounce stalled negotiations.

No contract since March 2020, salaries and schedules among sticking points

Croupiers at the Montreal Casino launched an unlimited general strike on Saturday, forming a picket line up in front of the casino. (The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes)

Croupiers at the Montreal Casino launched an unlimited general strike on Saturday, as negotiations over a new collective agreement have reached an impasse over the week.

The strike started at 9 a.m., with a picket line up in front of the casino by the afternoon.

The croupiers are asking for more rest time to avoid injuries that stem from the fast-paced, repetitive nature of the job, said Jean-Pierre Proulx, a union adviser for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. 

"It's work that requires long hours of standing. Croupiers can distribute up to 10,000 cards in one day," said Proulx Saturday afternoon. "The faster the game goes, the more money the casino makes."

A "staggering" number are currently suffering from work-related injuries, the union says. Salaries and schedules are also among the top issues at stake. 

Loto-Quebec, which manages the province's casinos, said it is disappointed with the strike, but that operations at the Montreal Casino will continue as normal. Gaming tables, restaurants, slot machines and shows are running as usual — though the poker lounge is closed.

This is the second time the workers have gone on strike this month. The croupiers held a pair of four-hour strikes last weekend to denounce the stalled negotiations. 

The collective agreement that regulates the working conditions of 521 dealers expired on March 31, 2020. Negotiations with a mediator resumed on Tuesday. 

Loto-Quebec issued a statement saying it offers safe and optimal working conditions to its employees.

"The croupiers at the Montreal Casino are asking for 30 minutes of paid break for each hour worked. They would therefore spend more than 30 per cent of their shift on paid break, which is unusual in the industry and other casinos by the company," the provincial lottery corporation said.

Proulx said they're not asking for half-hour break times to be paid. The workers currently get a 15-minute break for each hour worked, he says. 

On pay, the union is accusing the employer of wanting to reduce wages to 2017 levels. The union says that under the new salary scale offered, new hires would only earn 90 per cent of the base salary.

Loto-Quebec counters that the opening salary is 20 per cent more than what's offered in the market.

Loto-Quebec says it wants to reach a "responsible negotiated agreement," and that their offer is similar to what was accepted by other CUPE-affiliated unions at other casinos that it operates.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miriam Lafontaine is a journalist with CBC Montreal. She has previously worked with CBC in Fredericton, N.B. She can be reached at miriam.lafontaine@cbc.ca.

With files from the Canadian Press and Shuyee Lee.

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