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Racetrack workers vote to join CAW

BY KEITH LACEY The majority of workers at Sudbury Racetrack Slots have voted to join the Canadian Auto Workers union.

The majority of workers at Sudbury Racetrack Slots have voted to join the Canadian Auto Workers union.

In a vote held all day Thursday, ballots from 61 of the 80 employees were counted and 37 voted in favour of joining the CAW, while 26 opposed the certification vote.

Workers voting Thursday included coin cashiers, slots attendants and player service representatives.

Employees at Sudbury Racetrack Slots are employed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLGC)

John Aman, national representative for the CAW, said it was a long and difficult struggle for the workers determined to join a union, but he's talked to several of them and they're very pleased with Thursday's results.

"We were successful, despite a lot of problems staff were forced to endure from management about joining our union," he said. "At the end of the day, the majority of members wouldn't bite at some of the things management was telling them and have decided to join our union and we're very happy to have them on board."

Aman said he will be making the trip to Sudbury in the next couple of weeks to meet with employees before arranging a meeting with management to arrange bargaining sessions to try and hammer out a first collective agreement.

"Management has to meet with the workers to discuss the vote within 15 days...but working out a first collective agreement involves talking to the employees to see what their priorities are and working on key things like contract language," he said. "Realistically, the time line for getting a first collective agreement is anywhere from three to six months and that's what we'll be looking at."

Because the certification vote was only 58 percent in favour, there are many workers who voted against joining the union, but Aman is confident many will change their minds once meetings are set up to detail what the union's objectives are.

"This is Canada and you never, ever have to join a union, but we will certainly be extending an olive branch to those who have concerns," he said. "We're very confident most will want to join our union once they see what we have to offer and what we will be trying to achieve on their behalf."

To be part of the bargaining committee or a steward, an employee must be a member in good standing with the union, said Aman.

Don Pister, manager of public relations for the OLGC's Northern Ontario headquarters in Sault Ste. Marie, said Canada is a democratic country where joining a union is an option and the OLGC will respect the fact the majority of workers voted to join the CAW.

"We respect the rights of the workers and their decision to join this union," said Pister. "While we would have preferred to have continued working directly with our employees, we will honour their decision and will now concentrate on working with the members to try and reach an agreement on a first contract."

The CAW was so frustrated with OLGC management's efforts to interfere with the process in trying to unionize, it has filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, said Aman.

"They have held captive audience meetings with workers and basically told them there's nothing at all to be gained by joining a union," said Anan. "That's a very dangerous stance to take in a strong union town like Sudbury.

"We believe workers should have been completely free of influence to choose on their own on whether or not they want to join our union."

Pister said he wouldn't comment on allegations of management interference during the certification process.