Open letter from Thompson Okanagan casino workers

‘Many of us, even those who have been with the company for over 10 years, still make $12-13/hour.’

Dear Community Members:

For over five weeks, almost 700 community members in the Thompson-Okanagan have been on strike. We are Gateway Casino workers fighting for respect and the ability to live in the communities we serve. We are parents, students, long-time employees – we are your neighbours and we’re asking for your help.

We don’t have to tell you the cost of living is rising in the Thompson-Okanagan region – you feel it as much as we do. Housing prices and rents are increasing, groceries are more expensive here than in larger urban centres and rising gas prices make life unaffordable for those who need to commute from smaller communities. It’s no surprise that living wages, the base amount it takes to survive in our region, are around $17-18/hour.

Knowing this, Gateway Casinos, the largest gaming company in Canada, still refuses to offer decent wages. They use smokescreens and percentages designed to make us look greedy, out-of-touch, and unrealistic. The truth is, we are among the lowest-paid casino workers in Canada. Many of us, even those who have been with the company for over 10 years, still make $12-13/hour.

Gateway’s wage offer will not stay ahead of planned minimum wage increases. This is not an “offer,” it is merely compliance with government law. To insist on paying employees the lowest wage legally allowed in BC is heartbreaking; it is a testament to what they believe their employees are worth – what they believe people in our communities are worth.

READ MORE: MEDIATION BREAKS OFF

When Gateway says we don’t deserve to be paid as much as casino workers on the coast, what they are really saying is the service they offer you in the Thompson-Okanagan is second-rate. We don’t agree. We love our jobs. We work hard, in high-pressure environments, to offer you a top-notch entertainment experience.

The company has been taking aim at our tips. A tip is a reward for good service, it was never designed to be a supplement for poor wages. Gateway Casinos should not download the responsibility of paying a living wage onto our guests. The government does not even consider tips a dependable source of income and cannot be used towards things like CPP, mortgages, parental leave, EI and so on. Many casino workers don’t receive tips at all.

In the last few years, Gateway Casinos has invested nearly half a billion dollars in various development projects – it’s time they invest in their employees. When they pay living wages that allow us to live and shop in our communities, that money stays in the local Thompson-Okanagan economy rather than going to Gateway’s holdings in Metro Vancouver, Alberta and Ontario.

We are not on strike to cash in – we are fighting a wealthy employer for the ability to survive. We have families, student loans and the same daily expenses as many of you, and we are struggling to get by. It’s time for Gateway Casinos to stop profiting off our poverty.

Please help us in our fight by not crossing our picket lines and by telling Gateway how you feel. Call them, email them, write letters to the editor of our local papers. Visit our website at casinoworkers.ca for more ways to help.

So many of you have already come out to show your support and it means everything to us. Let’s show Gateway Casinos that the people of the Thompson-Okanagan are not second-rate – that we deserve better!

Sincerely,

Workers from Cascades Penticton, Playtime Kelowna, Lake City Vernon and Cascades Kamloops

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