Hundreds of casino workers in Quebec on strike on the eve of Grand Prix weekend

Nearly 1700 casino workers in Quebec have launched a five-day strike on the eve of the Grand Prix weekend in Montreal, protesting low wages. The strike is being carried out by employees from four casinos including Montreal, Gatineau, Mont-Tremblant, and Charlevoix. The CSN-affiliated union workers are also carrying out a strike at the Loto Quebec’s online gambling site. 

Earlier this month, 91% of the union employees issued a five-day strike mandate to be used “at the appropriate time,” to which the Crown corporation had reacted by noting that business in the Canadian province “would not be affected despite the pressure tactics.”

The Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix weekend draws thousands of tourists to the city of Montreal during the summer season. It takes place on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit on Île Notre-Dame, Quebec, where the Montreal casino is also located. This year, it is going to take place from June 16 to 18.

As per local media reports, Loto-Québec says that it has already made two “generous” offers to the union over the last few months. However, as per the CSN workers union, the offers have not changed since the end of February. 

Riccardo Scopelleti, the president of security workers at the Montreal Casino, noted that the negotiations have been going on for a year. Speaking to CBC, Scopelleti said: “We’re sending the message, we want to return to the table, we want to negotiate.”

In a statement, the CSN workers union outlined how Loto-Québec’s latest annual report says the Crown corporation had it the “best year ever.” The union highlighted that the casino’s executive vice president, Kevin G. Taylor, saw his yearly salary go from CAD 375,461 to CAD 504,498, which was a 34% increase.

The union said that it is “outraged” by Loto-Québec’s refusal to review other salaries despite its high profits. Scopelleti further noted that the casino has seen record profits for 17 years and called the refusal to review salaries “deplorable.”

Earlier in a statement, the union had demanded a pay increase that represents “the equivalent of the rise in the cost of living plus $1 per hour” to protect employees’ purchasing power and improve attraction and retention. 

Loto Quebec in a statement has noted that the casinos in question will remain open through the Grand Prix weekend, even though some services might be limited. The online site will be available but its call center will be offline.