Casino employees to get 35-cent an hour raises, bonuses

Recent announcement lifts year-old wage freeze

The wage freeze Niagara Casinos imposed last year has thawed now that the company has announced a 35 cent an hour raise for all employees at Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. Full-time employees will received a CAD 1,400 bonus to be paid out in May, spokesman Greg Medulun said.

For an hourly worker earning CAD 15 an hour, a 35 cent increase represents a 2.3 per cent raise.

With the casinos’ 2008-09 fiscal year drawing to a close at the end of the month, the raise and bonus are seen as the payoffs of a good year.

“I would classify it as a team effort – associates and management – that resulted in a successful year,” Medulun said. “They deserve to be rewarded.”

Medulun would not elaborate on what kind of financial success the casinos had. Through an agreement with the Ontario government, whose details have never been publicized, Falls Management Co., is paid a fee for running two casinos in Niagara Falls, then splits casino profits with the province.

A year ago, the casinos’ froze wages for the first time because management was expecting a tough year in 2008. The casinos also went through a voluntary buyout package for the first time that saw 279 casino workers three weeks of pay for every year of service if they resigned. Despite the buyouts and the wage freeze employees maintained its customer service standards, Medulun said.

At the same time, management improved the services available to casino customers by opening new restaurants, expanding the spa area and adding an Asian-themed gaming area.

Bonuses have been paid ever year since Casino Niagara opened in 1996. This year’s bonus is the biggest the casinos have ever given. In the past, they have ranged between CAD 750 and CAD 1,100.

Raise and bonus announcements have typically been made toward the end of the fiscal year. The fact the Canadian Auto Workers union withdrew its bid to organize casino workers has nothing to do with the timing of the announcement on raises and bonuses, Medulun said.

“The CAW has nothing to do with the success of our business,” he said.