The Communist Party of Canada-Ontario extends its full support to the members of Local 71201 of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who have been locked out by the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation (OLG) at the Rideau-Carleton Raceway Slots (RCRS) in Ottawa.

OLG locked out its 124 union workers on December 14, 2015 after the union rejected the corporation’s demands for a 2-year wage freeze – extending a previous 7-year wage freeze – and language requiring the members’ pension plan be stricken from any future collective agreement. Even though OLG claimed it was bound by the Liberal government’s “net zero increase” for public sector workers, it gave its management employees a 2% increase.

On April 14, 2016 the workers overwhelmingly rejected OLG’s latest offer of a five-year deal with a wage freeze for three of those years. OLG falsely claims their offer provides a 20% wage increase over 5 years. In reality, the offer adds up to only 6.75% over 5 years. The locked out 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.

We salute the unity and solidarity of the RCRS workers PSAC Local 71201, who have maintained a solid fight for a fair contract and against privatization. The workers’ struggle has been strengthened by solidarity from the labour movement and other activists in Ottawa and beyond, who have continually given picket-line support and other forms of active assistance to the PSAC members. This unity and solidarity has led to reduced revenues at the Rideau-Carleton Raceway Slots since the lockout began, despite the fact that OLG management has hired scabs to run the facility.

During the lockout, OLG has jeopardized the safety of the picketers by refusing to instruct its other staff and its customers to be cautious while driving through the line. On April 16 a picketer received serious head injuries after they were struck by another OLG employee’s car.

OLG, which is wholly owned by the Ontario government, has several different sites where its workers are represented by different unions. The corporation has tried to take advantage of this situation by creating labour disputes at a number of its workplaces, as part of an overall effort to drive down wages, benefits, working conditions and union strength. In the process, they 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.

Privatizing OLG is particularly dangerous for poor people in Ontario, in two senses: (1) gambling companies deliberately prey upon low income people, who form a disproportionately large segment of OLG patrons, and private companies’ drive for profit will make them more aggressive predators; and (2) poor communities, who may have benefited from some of the social projects financed by OLG, will see less and less of that meagre assistance under a privatized OLG.

The government’s move to privatize RCRS is part of a bigger privatization agenda, which includes the current sell-off of Hydro One. The result of this strategy is straightforward. On the one hand, it means the transfer billions of dollars in public assets to the richest and most powerful private corporations and individuals. On the other hand, it will result in fewer jobs and increased poverty, reduced wages and benefits, weaker pensions, reduced public services, and decreased union strength.

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) is opposed to privatization of public assets and institutions. We call for increased public ownership and democratic control, as the best means to guarantee accessible, universal services and ensure economic, social and environmental stewardship of resources.

The Communist Party demands:

  • 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;
  • An immediate halt to the provincial government’s privatization strategy, that targets public assets like OLG, Hydro One, education, LCBO, housing, transit, and health care;
  • Anti-scab legislation in Ontario, and a provincial Labour Bill of Rights that guarantees the right to organize, bargain collectively, and strike;
  • Progressive tax reform, and the reversal of two decades of corporate tax cuts that currently total $18 billion in lost revenue each year in Ontario.

We will continue our active solidarity with the workers of PSAC 71201, until this struggle is won.

Provincial Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) ~ April 22, 2016