Gateway Casinos employees optimistic about mediation

Employees of Gateway Casinos across the Okanagan have been on strike for over a week in hopes of getting a new contract with higher wages.

Mediation talks between the company and the union bargaining committee started up again on Monday, and will be continuing through Wednesday.

Several attempts at mediation were made in recent months, but both sides were unable to agree on a contract, leading to 93 percent of workers in Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, and Kamloops voting to walk off the job late last month.

This time, however, Tawni Duhamel, who is overseeing the strike at Playtime Casino in Kelowna, says she's optimistic about the discussions.

"I'm really hopeful; we miss what we do and we love our jobs," says Duhamel. "We hope to get back to work as soon as possible, but we're just hoping to have a living wage while we're doing it." 

One of these employees in Kelowna, Stephen Branston, has been an employee of Gateway Casinos for 19 years, and participated in a similar strike 18 years ago to get employees their first contract. 

"We had to walk the picket line for almost nine weeks, and we did it as a group," says Branston. "I'm hoping that it won't take that long this time around, but the offer that they made to us wasn't a good offer."

Over a week into the strike that's happening right now, and Branston says morale is still high on the picket line, and the employees are not worrying too much about missing out on a paycheck while on strike.

"We're getting good financial support from the Union," says Branston. "They're committed to supporting us to try and get a contract that represents a fair living wage for the employees.

Although most of its workers are on strike, Playtime Casino is still open, but is operating on reduced hours and limited services. Because of the strike, the Match restaurant inside the casino has closed down for the time being.