Casino workers hit New Year with festivity and militancy

Jared Phillips

SkyCity Casino workers in Auckland took strike action after the clock turned twelve on New Year’s eve, with more than 150 employees filing from the building and filling up its Victoria street side, and with the same number, combined, walking out from later shifts.

First was an all-up open air meeting to hear the company’s final offer which was then rejected by secret ballot by over 95% of members present. This was followed by a remarkable picket on the casino’s main entrance. Perhaps deliberately to curb the action, the bosses had put a high volume sound display at the entrance. This was over-run by the picket and several songs were over-run by the strikers, for instance ‘Ice Ice baby’ was derailed and became ‘Strike! Strike! baby!’ At that stage partying people came to us from the street and the casino, joined the action, danced and sung against the company. Groups of workers went home instead of back to shift. The later strikes held the same character.

The workers are members of SEA-Unite (SkyCity Employees Association – Unite) and the SFWU. At every level they’ve now undertaken to fight-back against this employer which would not allow union members to conduct a paid meeting to discuss the company’s final offer unless the union bargaining team recommended that workers accept that offer. This is a good example of how the employing class tries to fuck with workers’ democracy.

The company’s offer includes that the next union agreement be in place for three years but will contain no changes to workers’ or union rights, including in regard to redundancy and restructure procedures. The company’s offer includes tight-fisted years of service payments and the leanest possible allowances for work undertaken during the Rugby World Cup, including lean allowances for extra shifts. The company has refused to meet basic demands for a Living Wage of $15 per hour starting rate in all departments and a reflective increase for higher-graded employees.

SEA-Unite’s coordinator, Mike Treen, pointed out that having a stronger level of workers’ voice over procedures and receiving a Living Wage are not radical demands.

Despite the company’s menacing use of some outside labour during the strike, and despite the company’s threatening lie campaign about the illegality of the strike, the workers responded to the company offer by intensifying their resolve.

Whilst festive, the attitude at the casino is also militant. For the 60 hours leading into the strike SEA-Unite maintained a permanent presence of officials on site. Forty people who were not members of a union joined as a means of retaliation against unfair treatment by the employer. During the strikes, delegates mobilised groups of workers from some departments that have not been highly represented in previous actions for prior union agreements.

Happy New Year everybody, let it be a year of democracy, unity, and combatancy!

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