The thousands of unionized workers at the Crown Melbourne facility in Australia have threatened to strike during one of the busiest periods of the spring horse racing calendar as they look for a better deal on wages and conditions.
The three-day action could see employees at the giant casino and resort complex walk off the job from Saturday, which is the same day the Victoria Derby Day thoroughbred horse racing extravaganza is due to be held from nearby Flemington Racecourse. Numerous observers have forecast that a full strike could severely impact business at the 1,604-room venue as it would also run until just before Tuesday’s 163rd staging of the Melbourne Cup, which is one of the richest turf races on the planet.
The United Workers Union declared that a recent ballot of its members authorized a full strike that was to include up to 3,600 Crown Melbourne workers. However, operator Crown Resorts initially challenged this figure by stating that only 1,700 employees would be allowed to down tools before revising this total up to approximately 3,100 people.
The primary demands of the Crown Melbourne - which recently announced redevelopment plans - workers include fair wage increases for each year of a new employment agreement alongside higher compensation rates for weekends and public holidays. Staff are moreover demanding the implementation of a payment progression system tied to service length as well as more equitable shift rosters to help improve work-life balances.
Deb Lipscombe has worked at Crown Melbourne for 28 years, which is more than half of her life, and wants Crown Resorts to treat its employees with more respect and dignity during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. She argued that rising transportation charges, household bills and parking expenses have prompted many staff members to grow concerned about their financial well-being.
“It shouldn't cost me to go to work; with household bills going up, putting petrol in the car to get to work, paying for parking when I arrive,” Lipscombe said. “We take care of the patrons and they expect us to do it for crumbs whilst they profit off of us.”
The Casinos Director for the United Workers Union, Dario Mujkic, proclaimed that Crown Melbourne garnered almost $899.6 million in revenues for the previous financial year despite racking up a net loss of about $127.8 million. He detailed that work stoppages inside the Victorian facility are set to occur between 6pm and 10pm on Saturday, 10am to 2pm on Sunday and 6pm to 10pm on Monday.
“Crown Resorts has so far not come to the table with an offer that keeps up with the cost of living,” Mujkic said. “By voting to take action right at the start of the spring racing carnival this weekend, casino workers are telling Crown Resorts they're serious about getting a fair deal.”
For his part, the Chief Executive Officer for Crown Melbourne, Mike Volkert, has acknowledged that his staff have the right to take industrial action as they endeavor to secure improved pay rates and working conditions but insisted patrons would not be impacted.
“Crown Melbourne has put contingencies in place to minimize impact on our operations and guest experience," Volkert said. “We have a long history of bargaining in good faith and will continue to do so in the hopes of reaching an agreement soon.”