In a letter sent today to James D. Packer, Executive Chairman of PBL Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd. - the Australian publishing, broadcasting and gambling giant - the Alberta Federation of Labour has asked the Australian billionaire to resolve the seven month old labour dispute at the Palace Casino in Edmonton.
"I have simply asked Mr. Packer to look at this dispute in a cool, dispassionate business way," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "His company has just acquired the Palace Casino along with the other assets of the Gateway Casinos Income Fund, and we are hoping that a fresh approach by the new ownership can break this deadlock."
In the letter, McGowan pointed out just how badly the strike has affected the financial picture at the Palace Casino. "I informed Mr. Packer about the massive $3.5 million drop in revenue from Palace in the fourth quarter - which coincides with the beginning of the strike," notes McGowan. "Operating earnings during the period fell from $2.167 million to a loss of $.582 million - a drop of 126.9%."
"What should be a flagship of his new Canadian holdings is actually a drag on profits because of the strike," says McGowan. "I suggested to Mr. Packer that he could restore good will in Edmonton and make the Palace Casino profitable by encouraging management to reach a fair and equitable settlement with the striking members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401."
"I believe that any businessperson as successful Mr. Packer will not let this situation continue to impact his operations," concludes McGowan.
For more information contact:
Gil McGowan, President Bus: (780) 483-3021 Cell: (780) 218-9888
Striking workers at Palace Casino in West Edmonton Mall have won a major victory in arbitration, one that imposes a stinging penalty for flagrant employer misconduct. In an award issued yesterday regarding a grievance filed before the strike began, an arbitrator has awarded monetary damages to UFCW Local 401, and to the individual members at Palace Casino.
The ruling found that an employer ban on the wearing of union pins was discriminatory, and a deprivation of employee rights to freedom of expression and the union's ability to represent its members. The arbitrator therefore awarded $10,000 to the union, $500 to each employee, and a further $1,000 to employees who were confronted in the workplace and ordered to remove their union pins.
The grievance stems from UFCW's campaign to become certified as the union representing workers at Palace Casino, after the employer withdrew an existing voluntary recognition of the union. The fact that a collective agreement was already in place, however, meant that employee rights were already protected by a contract. After hearing argument from both sides, the arbitrator ruled that:
"I find that the company's breach was committed intentionally to prevent employees from exhibiting support for UFCW. I believe that this was done in the hope that it would discourage Union membership and increase the likelihood that the Union's certification bid would fail."
Doug O'Halloran, president of UFCW 401 said: the award provides a big boost to the morale of the striking workers. "We've won an important victory with this grievance, and by sticking together we can win an even bigger one in this strike."
AFL President Gil McGowan agrees. "This ruling shows that employers can't get away with trampling over the Charter rights of their employees, at least not when there's a union in the workplace to defend those rights."
For more information contact:
Gil McGowan Cell: (780) 218-9888
Against the objections of their union, the Alberta Labour Relation Board (LRB) has ruled that striking Palace Casino workers in Edmonton must vote on an employer offer that the union categorized as "illegal, contrary to the scheme of the Code, a product of a failure to bargain in good faith , and incapable of forming a collective agreement."
"This decision once again illustrates why the labour movement has become increasingly frustrated and unhappy with the Alberta Labour Relations Board," says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan. "We don't object to free votes on fair offers - but we oppose forced votes on unfair offers. We recognize that such forced votes are unfortunately allowed by the Code, but the Board should have been more attentive to union objections and the impact on striking workers."
"Palace Casino has forced its workers on strike because they refuse to recognize the value of their own workers in Alberta's booming economy," observes McGowan. "After four months on the picket line through bitter weather, it has become clear that the company could not break the spirit of the union members. That's why the company is forcing this vote now."
The problem with this employer tactic, according to McGowan is that it short-circuits the bargaining process. "Rather than negotiate a fair deal with the bargaining team, the employer is trying to go behind their backs and bully workers into an inferior deal," notes McGowan. "When that offer includes things that were deemed improper by the Board, it should not be forced on union members."
The union has also complained that the Board excised the important �back-to-work protocol' from the agreement rather than fixing it. This back-to-work agreement is not only typical of collective agreements after strikes - they are essential to protect union activists from employer reprisals.
The fact that the forced offer includes a signing bonus is another indication of double-dealing, according to McGowan. "Signing bonuses are a cheap attempt to convince workers to act against their own best interests," says McGowan. "If the offer isn't good enough on its own merit, simply waving cash under the noses of people who have been on strike for four months is both underhanded and demeaning.
"The Labour Relations Board shouldn't need to be reminded that it is here to safeguard workers' rights and help create good labour relations. Their mandate doesn't include helping employers sell bad agreements," concludes McGowan.
For more information contact: Gil McGowan Bus: (780) 483-3021 Cell: (780) 218-9888
The labour movement has escalated its efforts to resolve the Palace Casino strike by sending letters to 300 charities who are scheduled to volunteer for casinos at Palace in the coming months. The letter, sent on October 13 from Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, asks charities to contact the Minister of Gaming and the casino owners to urge them to settle the dispute quickly. It also asks them to consider canceling their scheduled casino if the strike continues.
"The intransigence of Palace Casino and the government's willful neglect of this issue have put charities in a difficult spot," notes McGowan. "Either they make their volunteers cross a picket line, or they forfeit their coveted casino spot. It is not a great situation. It is in everyone's interest to end this strike quickly."
"Our letter is to acknowledge the difficult spot they are in, and ask them to be a part of resolving the conflict as quickly as possible," says McGowan. "We are asking them to put pressure on the casino owners to come back to the negotiating table. We are also asking them to demand that the government take a more active role in resolving this conflict."
"We want to start a conversation with the charities about why the workers are on strike, and why it is important they respect the picket line."
The letter also outlines options available to charities if they choose to not cross the picket line. It indicates that if they cancel ahead of time, the government will attempt to reschedule the casino as soon as possible. However, if they fail to produce the required number of volunteers at the time of their casino, they risk forfeiting their spot in the rotation.
"The government could assist the charities by guaranteeing that any charity that chooses to cancel their casino due to the strike would be guaranteed a replacement once the dispute is resolved. So far they refuse to do that, which makes them part of the problem," McGowan observes.
McGowan notes that business at the casino is down substantially. "The strike is having a serious effect on the casino's business. They are losing tens of thousands of dollars a day due to lost customers. It is in Palace's financial interest to agree to a fair deal and end this strike. Why they don't is beyond comprehension."
McGowan is hopeful the charities will appreciate the information in the letter and will contact the union to discuss how the workers and the charities can work together to end the strike. "These charities do important work for the community. They are decent people. Hopefully the combined efforts of the workers and these volunteers will bring the government and Palace Casino to their senses."
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For More Information
Gil McGowan, AFL President Cell: (780) 218-9888