3 March 2016
The Rideau Carleton Raceway Slots (RCRS) experienced a drop of $1 million in the October-December 2015 quarter according to figures released by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) at the end of February. Revenue in the same quarter the year before, in 2014, stood at $30.2 million, while revenue for October-December 2015 fell to $29.2 million. The 2015 quarter included 16 days where workers were locked out (covering the December 15-31 period), which resulted in the Slots transitioning from a 24 hour a day operation to being open just between noon and midnight.
The 124 workers were locked out after they overwhelmingly refused to accept OLG’s final offer, which limited wage increases to just 1.75% in one year out of a new three year contract, and also sought to remove existing pension language from the current collective agreement. Moreover, immediately after it locked out unionized employees, it raised managers’ wages by 2%.
In addition to refusing to give up pension language, the workers, whose salaries have been frozen since 2009, had also asked for wage increases of 3% per year to catch up with the increased cost of living. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents the workers, has calculated that a 3% increase in year 1 of a new contract would cost OLG less than $200,000 for the year.
“It appears that by refusing the workers’ very reasonable wage demands and locking them out, OLG has ended up losing five times as much in lower revenue during the lucrative holiday season at the end of the year,” said Larry Rousseau, Regional Executive Vice President of the PSAC in the National Capital Region. “The lockout was a really poor decision on OLG’s part—it reduced the Slots’ hours of operation by 50 percent. And I think we’ll see the full impact when we get the numbers for the current quarter, which ends in March.”
The drop in revenue at the RCRS also puts at risk this year’s financial transfers to the City of Ottawa, which received nearly $5.2 million from the the facility last year.
Furthermore, management at the RCRS has started the process of hiring scabs on four month contracts. Eleven positions were posted on OLG’s hiring website in late February.
“We’re concerned that OLG is more focussed on hiring replacement workers than on resolving this labour dispute on fair terms,” said Doug Marshall, President of the Union of National Employees, a component union of PSAC. “And hiring these scabs on four month terms also sends the message to the workers that OLG intends to keep them out at least until July.”
The workers’ bargaining team remains ready to return to the bargaining table, and hopes OLG will retreat from its insistence on keeping wages frozen for two out of three years of a new contract, and also agree to keep existing pension language in the collective agreement.