After 4 months on the picket line, locked out workers at Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation’s Rideau-Carleton Raceway Slots (RCRS) in Ottawa are holding firm.
OLG locked out 124 members of Local 71201 of the Public Service Alliance of Canada on December 14, 2015 after they rejected the corporation’s demands for a 2-year wage freeze and language requiring the members’ pension plan be stricken from any future collective agreement. The 2-year freeze is on top of a previous 7-year wage freeze. While OLG claims it is bound by the Liberal government’s “net zero increase” for public sector workers, it managed to give its management employees a 2% increase.
On April 14 the workers overwhelmingly rejected OLG’s latest offer of a five-year deal with a wage freeze for three of those years. RCRS workers have not received a wage increase since 2009, during which time the local cost of living has risen by over 10%, leaving them with significant real wage losses. OLG falsely claims their offer provides a 20% wage increase over 5 years – in fact, the offer adds up to only 6.75% over 5 years.
The workers’ unity and solidarity have helped them build and sustain a solid fight. Despite hiring scabs to run the facility, OLG has suffered reduced revenues at the Rideau-Carleton Raceway Slots since the lockout began. The workers and union have received solidarity – in the form of picket-line support and other forms of active assistance – from the labour movement and progressive activists in Ottawa and beyond.
The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) issued a statement on April 22, demanding intervention by the Wynne government to end the RCRS lockout and force OLG to agree to a fair contract that includes decent wages and benefits, job protection, and pension security. The CPC(O) also demands an immediate halt to the provincial government’s privatization strategy, anti-scab legislation in Ontario and a provincial Labour Bill of Rights that guarantees the right to organize, bargain collectively, and strike.
OLG, which is wholly owned by the Ontario government, has created labour disputes several of its workplaces, as part of an overall effort to drive down wages, benefits, working conditions and union strength. This is part of a larger plan to increase profits and make OLG an attractive prospect for privatization, to corporations who are eager to make huge profits at the expense of the people of Ontario.
The move to privatize RCRS is part of the Ontario government’s bigger privatization strategy, that targets public assets like OLG, Hydro One, education, LCBO, housing, transit, and health care. This plan means the transfer billions of dollars in public assets to the richest and most powerful private corporations and individuals. It also means fewer jobs and increased poverty, reduced wages and benefits, weaker pensions, reduced public services, and decreased union strength.
The struggle at RCRS is both for a fair contract and against privatization. As such, it’s part of a broader political fight that demands the active involvement of the labour movement and its allies in the housing, healthcare, transit, student and anti-poverty movements – and all organizations who are fighting austerity and privatization. With unity and solidarity, this battle can be won!