Coquitlam casino still behind pickets

Great Canadian says striking workers can’t block entry

After five days of job action, a labour dispute at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam does not appear to be ending anytime soon.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. said in a statement Monday that it has been granted an order by the B.C. Labour Relations Board prohibiting striking workers from blocking entry to the property. 

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Picket lines went up early last Friday morning, 72 hours after the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents 400 casino staff, issued strike notice. A rally was held later in the day. 

“We were disappointed and surprised by some of the aggressive and illegal behaviour demonstrated by some of the picketers,” casino general manager Jimmy Ho wrote in an email to The Tri-City News. “Guests and non-bargaining unit employees cannot be blocked when entering or exiting Hard Rock’s property.”

Despite the job action, Ho said the casino remains open and free hot dogs are being offered to gamblers while the strike is taking place. He noted that singer George Thorogood played two sold-out concerts at the venue over the weekend and that “going forward, shows will proceed as scheduled.”

But Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU, told The Tri-City News striking workers have been following the rules and are only asking casino customers to respect their picket lines. The union has also reached out to performers and promoters with concerts at the venue requesting they reconsider holding their events given the job action, she said.

Smith added that it “was disappointing” Thorogood performed behind the BCGEU’s picket line but said other promoters and performers have been receptive to the union’s requests.

“They are very interested to hear that we have the lines,” she said “They are very concerned. We will continue to follow up with them and try and encourage them to respect the lines and respect workers.”

In February, unionized employees voted 99.5% in favour of taking strike action, with 90% of ballots cast. That prompted mediation, which is required by the B.C. Labour Code, but Smith said the company and the union are still far apart on wages.

The company said the BCGEU walked away from their offer in March and that a final offer sent out April 19 was rejected. Neither side has met for further negotiations since.


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