A BETWEEN-SHIFT mass meeting of over 100 Conrad Treasury Casino workers in Brisbane has voted unanimously to initiate a ballot for industrial action in support of their claim for 5.5 per cent for each of the next three years.
Tabcorp, the casino owners, have offered a one-year agreement with a 3 per cent wage rise offset by a 17 per cent reduction in sick pay. The company is now pushing a staff ballot (starting on April 22) for a non-union agreement using Howard’s WorkChoices laws.
But the chances of the company winning the ballot seem very small. Casino CEO, Geoff Hogg, got a roasting at the staff “information sessions” called by the company. Hogg was crying poor because of the recession—but no-one is buying that. The casino’s in-house glossy publication has been boasting about their expansion plans and Tabcorp profits still topped $820 million last financial year. Many of the information sessions went on for almost two hours before management called a halt, leaving most workers angrier than before.
Company stalling has already meant Treasury Casino workers have been waiting months for their pay rise, and no guarantee was given that the same delays wouldn’t happen again when the proposed one-year agreement expires at the end of the year.
One worker attending the information sessions demanded that Hogg justify why he had lied to the staff. He had earlier guaranteed that he would not put a formal offer to the vote without the agreement of the union and the delegates. He tried to duck the question but eventually admitted that management and the union were never going to agree.
When questioned about why the company was cutting sick pay, Hogg backtracked saying workers could have their sick pay but it would mean the basic wage offer would drop to 2 or 2.5 per cent.
Tabcorp is threatening to refuse to back pay workers if they do not vote for the non-union agreement. But workers aren’t accepting that either. “A pay increase of 5.5 per cent would more than cover what we might lose in back pay,” one worker told Solidarity, “But if we are strong enough to win our full claim, we are strong enough to win the back pay. The company has told us they have already budgeted for it anyway.”
An LHMU bulletin, “Five reasons to vote No” was distributed at the mass meeting. A new edition of the rank and file newsletter The Real Deal, arguing for a “No” vote, is about to hit the casino too.
After the defeat of the non-union agreement, the next step will be building a campaign among union members to “Vote Yes” in the secret ballot for industrial action. Casino workers are already discussing what will be the most effective strike action, with plans to shut the casino for at least a Friday or Saturday night—the casino’s busiest.
Casino workers can contact The Real Deal at treasuryworker@hotmail.com

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