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Croupiers at Montreal Casino launch unlimited strike as negotiations hit impasse

Croupiers take part in a march to the Casino in Montreal, Saturday, May 21, 2022, where they launched an unlimited general strike. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — Croupiers at the Montreal Casino launched an unlimited general strike on Saturday as negotiations over a new collective agreement have stalled.

In a statement, the union representing workers said the strike started at 9 a.m. with a picket line erected in the afternoon in front of the casino.

Loto-Québec, which manages the province's casinos, said it is disappointed with the strike but said operations at the Montreal casino will continue as normal and clients will have access. Gaming tables, restaurants, slot machines and shows are running as normal, while the poker lounge is closed.

Croupiers held a pair of four-hour strikes last weekend to denounce stalled negotiations.

The collective agreement that regulates the working conditions of 521 dealers expired on March 31, 2020, with salaries and schedules among the issues at stake.

The croupiers are asking in particular for better accommodation of working and rest time to avoid injuries on the job, Jean-Pierre Proulx, a union adviser for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said in a statement. He said the number of employees suffering from work-related injuries is "staggering."

Loto-Québec issued a statement saying it offers safe and optimal working conditions to its employees.

"However, the croupiers at the Montreal Casino are asking for 30 minutes of paid break for each hour worked. They would therefore spend more than 30 per cent of their shift on paid break, which is unusual in the industry and other casinos by the company," the provincial lottery corporation said.

On wages, CUPE is accusing the employer of wanting to reduce remuneration to 2017 levels and alleges the new salary scale would ensure new employees would earn 90 per cent of the base salary.

"In a context of labour shortage, this is downright irresponsible and the union will never accept it," Proulx said.

Loto-Québec counters the opening salary is 20 per cent more than what's offered in the market.

Loto-Québec says it wants to reach a "responsible negotiated agreement" and said the negotiations were similar to what was accepted by other CUPE-affiliated unions at other casinos it operates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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