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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pickets Up at Woodbine

On the morning of the post position draw for the 147th Queen's Plate, media, owners and, later in the day, fans, will be greeted by picketers from the mutuel clerks union at Woodbine.
This story appeared in the Toronto Star this morning:

Mutuels clerks at Woodbine went on strike last night after their 600-member union, the independent Canadian Racetrack Workers Union, voted against the latest contract proposal offered by Woodbine Entertainment Group.

"The majority of the members of the mutuels clerks union have voted to maintain the strike," said Brian Lawrence, vice- president of teamsters Local 419, which is aligned with CRWU. "The picket lines will be up at Woodbine (today) and we will begin to measure what position we take at Mohawk Raceway (in Campbellville)."

The 147th Queen's Plate is scheduled for Sunday and the slots business sharing the building with the live horse racing will also be affected by picket lines.

"I think it would be fair to say that Woodbine has been stalling with us until after the Plate, but we finally had to draw the line," CRWU president Brian Henderson said before the strike vote was taken.

Another big horse racing event, the Breeders' Cup World Championships, was threatened by a labour dispute in October 1996 when Woodbine locked out mutuels clerks days before the event. That dispute was resolved in time for the Cup to be held.

The mutuels clerks' contract with Woodbine expired Dec. 31 and Henderson says the union has had some 20 meetings with Woodbine since negotiations began Feb. 1.

The main issues for the union are the minimum requirements for maintaining seniority for full-time staff and scheduling.

Jane Holmes, vice-president of corporate affairs for WEG, said the Woodbine offer was "very fair." Holmes said yesterday afternoon that it will still be "business as usual" and that "we hope the customers aren't inconvenienced."


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