When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Quebec casinos were shut down for a long time. It wasn’t until late February 2022 that Loto-Quebec announced they would be opening back up with limited capacity and mandatory masks to wear while gambling in their facility, even though most other restrictions had disappeared by then too! The process of reopening took months before full operations could resume; however, on May 15th this year (2022), all staff members at private residences and public facilities will no longer require protective gear, nor do wearers need Montrealers should remove them unless there’s an emergency.
Another problem had been looming on the verge of the resolution, but another development is currently underway.
On Saturday, the croupiers at Montreal Casino coordinated a four-hour strike to voice their demands. And since then, it has only gotten worse for them!
Loto-Quebec lucrative contract with their 521 croupiers expired on March 31st, 2020. Yes, that date is correct – no agreement has existed for more than two years! The primary disagreements pertained to salaries and schedules.
For many years, the Montreal Casino has been negotiating with CUPE to try and reach an agreement. This year was no different as negotiations hit a wall; it prompted strike action on May 14th, 2018, by all croupiers at both properties who walked out together around 4 pm during busy Saturday afternoon hours when they were most likely busiest – leading people not only leave but also angry about what happened (or didn’t). In early May 2019, more contentious talks came, which eventually led to neither side being satisfied until finally…no deal had been reached yet again!
The Casino de Montreal is ready to welcome customers! The pressure tactics of the croupier’s union have done nothing but create controversy.
Loto-Quebec’s press release confirmed that the gaming tables in their casino were still operational, and customers could play blackjack or baccarat. They also announced plans to continue negotiations with unions according to negotiating parameters similar to those accepted by other casinos which have already dialogued successfully on this issue–including keeping poker rooms open while closing others like craps (which is illegal).
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) released a statement after the recent strike by casino employees. The union said that this is only “a first step” in their war against the employer unless he shows more openness during mediation sessions starting next Tuesday; with the action they took today, it’s clear how committed croupiers are willing to negotiate a fair agreement.”
Jean- Pierre Proulx, a representative from CUPE and the bargaining committee member, said they were seeking an agreement to get one fair deal for everyone.
Back Story to Tensions
Just a few months ago, the planned reopening of Montreal casinos by Loto-Quebec was met with much optimism. However, this soon changed when it became evident that they would not be able to obtain licenses from both Alcohol and Gaming Control Boards at once due to an old rule which prevents companies operating more than one type of gambling facility in Canada from having overlaps between its jurisdictions for law enforcement purposes. This meant there could potentially only ONE casino legally open back up again–umbrella style like before but without any potential competition!
Proulx referred to the pandemic layoffs as an opportunity for Loto-Quebec, a company that has been notorious for its treatment of employees and its inappropriate firing practices. The gloves came off when Paille announced she would be taking over management duties at Montreal Casino following CUPE’s public statement about what they felt might happen with regards to hundreds more hidden job cuts planned by this juggernaut casino authority.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees called on Loto-Quebec to bring all employees back by March 14th, two weeks after the limited capacity reopenings.
CUPE called on the government to intercede before any more layoffs could happen.
Loto-Quebec’s plan to get croupiers back on the job seemed like it was working. The company called them all together, and they were able, for a while at least, to pivot from their transitional schedule into a more stable one by June 2018 – just in time!
Reaching an Impasse
The strike by croupiers at Montreal Casino became formal on May 22nd, when they set up a picket line and asked customers not to cross it. The negotiations continued for another few days but soon dissolved into conflict as both sides blamed each other for breaking off talks without resolution.
This was not just a one-day strike as the employees had before. This would be an unlimited workweek, and they were ready for that type of dedication from their employers to protect patients’ rights!
Loto-Quebec’s statement is a disappointment. They were hoping for an agreement, but the talks were going well until now.
The Montreal Casino website notes table games are still available, but OK Poker room is “temporarily unavailable.” Loto-Quebec claims all activities at the casino will operate as normal with one exception; pokies (poker machines) have been temporarily removed from their list of offerings while they await new equipment, which should arrive any day now! The property welcomes customers just like every other day-and you can expect them to be well stocked, too, thanks again in part to our partnership agreements ensuring high-quality supplies for everything worth playing.
The casino is trying to lure professionals with a higher salary than their competitors, but according to the labour board, some employees were unhappy about this offer. The regulator claims they have good working conditions, including an entry-level wage which exceeds 20% above what’s on the market and offers bonuses during specific shifts as well as tips; the base hourly rate doubles when you’ve got those extra opportunities for profit measured out in your hands (that sounds dirty).
“It’s not our responsibility to provide you with paid break time,” said Loto-Quebec. “If the industry standards are that one hour of shift requires 30 minutes off, then they would spend more than thirty percent (of their workday) on breaks.” The company says this is unusual in comparison to other companies because most workers get at least 2 hours worth!
Loto-Quebec is always available to resume negotiations with CUPE when the union prepares itself for a responsible negotiated agreement.
The representative for CUPE argued that croupiers are not asking for 30 minutes per hour of paid break times. He told CBC workers currently receive 15-minute breaks every time they work but want more rest to avoid injuries and other health issues such as stress or chronic pain problems in their neck/shoulder area after hours on the job. A few weeks ago, I read an article about how some football players take yoga classes during their off-season because it helps them relax between games – the same goes for casino workers’ jobs!
“The work here is fast-paced and repetitive, with croupiers dealing up to 10 thousand cards in one day,” said Proulx. “It requires long hours standing.” There have also been many injuries related directly to this type of job description – an unfortunate fact that could be considered discouraging for potential employees who want something more stable or safer at their next career opportunity.
CUPE says that Loto-Quebec’s recent offer is a giant step backwards and will reduce wages to levels not seen since 2017. The regulator’s latest gambit would give newly hired workers only 90% of the base salary while offering them 20% more than what they can currently get on the market right now – which CUPEs see as an attempt by this company (and others like it)to bring pay rates back down again after rising somewhat over time!