Hard Rock Casino Vancouver Labor Disruption Settled Ending Two-Month Strike

Posted on: July 24, 2018, 02:30h. 

Last updated on: July 24, 2018, 01:27h.

A two-month strike at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver came to an end on Monday night — but only just.

Hard Rock Vancouver
Union members picket beneath the giant electric guitar of the Hard Rock Vancouver. The strikers finally earned their pay raise on Monday, but with the cessation of craps and poker, will it prove to be a short lived victory? (Image: Alex McCleen/Toronto Star)

Fifty-seven percent of the striking members of the BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) voted to accept a deal with Hard Rock operator the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (CGC), which will offer immediate annual wage increases and assurances of better protection against workplace harassment.

Almost 400 employees walked off the job on May 11, demanding better pay and independent investigations into harassment complaints. During the ensuing standoff, CGC complained of “unreasonable” demands, as the Hard Rock soldiered on with stripped down operations, while workers picketed outside.

CGC grumbled that the union had proposed a casino security officer should be earning 23 percent more than a trained entry-level Mountie, while the union claimed it was merely asking for a livable wage.

Poker and Craps Scrapped

A tentative agreement reached between the two parties earlier this month was voted down by workers.

The reason for that — and for Monday’s narrow margin of approval — was a mid-strike change in the casino’s operations that will see the elimination of poker and craps tables — some of the highest paid positions in the casino.

While workers have won their pay raises — described by the union as “at top” of the scale for the industry — the loss of the table games will almost certainly lead to reduced hours, which will be akin to a pay cut.

A Pyrrhic victory, maybe, but BCGEU president Stephanie Smith told the Star Vancouver she believed it would set a new industry standard that would spur a resolution to another labor dispute, at British Columbia’s Okenagan Casino.

Disruption Continues at Okanagan

Some 700 workers are picketing the Okanagan, demanding better wages from operator Gateway Casinos, which, according to Smith, pays little more than the minimum wage.

The labor disruptions have come at a difficult time for British Columbia casino operators, particularly CGC. An auditor general’s report published late last month described the province’s casinos as “laundromats” for dirty money.

CGC’s River Rock Casino in Richmond has been singled out as the worst offender for anti-money laundering violations. Recent investigations by police and the provincial gaming regulator have accused the casino of regularly accepting large amounts of unsourced, low-denomination cash from Asian VIPs.

Meanwhile, reports of nocturnal “clandestine drop-offs” at the casino have been linked to an underground banking network with links to drug trafficking and terrorist financing.