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We want Woodbine workers to win

Peter Hogarth

July 28, 2017

Slot machine workers at Woodbine Racetrack have been locked out by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). The more than 400 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) are now walking the picket lines, hoping to win better conditions at work.

On July 5, the union and OLG reached a tentative agreement, but the workers rejected it because it failed to address their demands for better pay and fairness at work. The agreement was revised and submitted to OLG, who rejected it and locked out their employees. Now, the slot machines in the province’s largest gaming floor are being staffed by non-union workers and managers, while electronic poker and some other services are closed or running on reduced hours.

What the workers want

The demands from the workers are for modest wage improvements and better scheduling, especially for part-time workers. According to the union, 60 percent of the slot machine workers are part-time and often receive less than two days notice of their work schedules. Sharon Desousa, Ontario Regional Executive Vice President of PSAC, told Global News, “many of the employees work full-time hours but are refused full-time employment. The large part-time workforce has no guarantee of hours, yet must be available for shifts within a 48-hour time frame in a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation.”

That means slot machine workers at Woodbine Racetrack are denied a stable working environment where they can plan their lives around their work and have decent lives outside of work. Instead, many employees have worked part-time for 10 years without the chance to become full time and access paid sick days, better scheduling and other benefits of full-time employment.

Workers deserve fairness at work and we should support the Woodbine workers fight for better scheduling.

The fight for $15 and Fairness

The International Socialists have been involved in the Ontario-wide Fight for $15 and Fairness, a campaign by Ontario workers to raise the minimum wage floor and win better scheduling, paid sick days, equal pay for part-time and full-time workers, an end to sectoral exemptions from pay and labour laws, and the right for workers to join unions and advocate for themselves at work.

Currently, province wide pressure from $15 and Fairness campaigners, labour unions, migrant justice organizations, students, disabled and injured workers, and a host of other champions of decent work have made it so that the Liberal government feels that it has to act to pass some of our recommendations. Bill 148, which is currently in committee hearings, adopts many of the demands for fairness for workers including a $15 minimum wage, two paid emergency days (and 10 emergency days) for all workers, equal pay for full and part-time workers and—importantly for the workers at Woodbine—three hours pay for all on-call workers who aren’t called in, three hours of pay for any worker whose shift is suddenly cancelled, and the right for workers to refuse a shift with less than four days notice.

The fight of the Woodbine workers for better scheduling and better conditions for part-time workers is the fight of the $15 and Fairness campaign and should be the fight for workers all over the province who want to see a stronger, healthier, more confident and more powerful working class movement.

Why we care

As socialists, we believe that a better world can be won by putting ordinary workers in charge. Instead of rich bosses telling us how to do our jobs, we think the people that do the work should be able to make decisions and have more power. Like the slogan of the Occupy movement said, we believe that the interests of the 99% should be more important than the profits of the 1%. Everytime there is someone saying we need cutbacks, you can point to an executive with a huge salary living off the work that the rest of us do. We want the Woodbine workers to win, because we want the working class to win. A victory for more power in the workplace, more solidarity between workers and better working conditions for slot machine workers is a victory that can be replicated elsewhere.

We need better healthcare, better childcare, a cleaner environment, an end to long hours for low pay, an end to racist police violence and other bigotry, and we believe that part of that struggle is winning better conditions and more power for the 99%. The Woodbine workers are a part of that struggle and we want them to win!            

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