Injunction denial against picketing casino workers in Penticton a ‘big win’ for all unions: BCGEU

Unionized workers at the Cascades Casino in Penticton, B.C. have been on strike for 3.5 months. Shelby Thom/Global News

The B.C. Government Service Employees Union (BCGEU), representing striking casino workers in the Thompson-Okanagan, says a court dismissal of an injunction filed by Gateway Casinos against picketers is a win for all unions in B.C.

Gateway Casinos filed an application with the BC Supreme Court requesting an interlocutory injunction against picketers at the Penticton Cascades Casino, alleging trespassing, intimidation and harassment of non-union employees and customers.

The primary evidence relied upon was an affidavit filed by general manager Michael Magnusson, which included a DVD containing several short video and audio recordings made between Sept. 10-12 on the picket line.

The video depicts striking workers walking slowly across the property line of the casino’s parking lot and fleeting encroachments, but the judge determined it does not amount to a blockade.

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As for the picketers’ behavior, the video shows a union member calling a casino patron a “scab” and referring to her conduct in crossing the picket line as a “crime.” In another instance, a patron is referred to as a “retired stripper.”

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Justice Michael Tammen determined “such conduct, although impolite and in poor taste, is not unlawful.”

“It is largely, although perhaps not entirely, the sort of exchange which one might expect on a picket line during a bitter labour dispute,” he said in his decision dismissing the application.

The BCGEU said the court victory is rarity in picketing disputes in B.C. and upholds picketing as an exercise of free expression and workers’ rights.

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“That decision is a big win for all unions in B.C.,” said president Stephanie Smith.

“On behalf of the almost 700 BCGEU members that have been on strike since June 29 I am urging Gateway to drop the cheap PR tactics and the frivolous legal tactics and get back to the table,” she added.

However, the company is maintaining its stance.

In a statement to Global News, Tanya Gabara, director of public relations for Gateway Casinos, said, “It is unfortunate that we are in the position of needing to bring lawsuits in order to ensure that the union picketers behave lawfully and respect the safety of patrons, the public and employees.”

Approximately 675 unionized workers at Gateway Casinos in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Kamloops have been on strike since late June, seeking wage increases.

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