Ticket Tellers Take Aim at Woodbine Automation Plans

August 26, 2011, 12:35 PM EST

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CAW Local 2007 has launched a public awareness campaign that takes aim at Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) plans to fully automate ticket-taking operations in gaming houses across the Greater Toronto Area. 

Hundreds of local gaming sector jobs are on the line at racetracks and off-track teletheatres as WEG ramps up efforts to replace live mutuel tellers with automated machines.

On August 24, a group of CAW activists from across the GTA joined with Local 2007 members to hold a public information leaflet at Woodbine Racetrack in Rexdale (a community located north-west of downtown Toronto) - the latest in a series of campaign actions planned over the coming weeks.

The union is raising concern over the company's new automation strategy, which is causing anger and confusion among workers and patrons.

"The company is pushing full steam ahead to replace its workers with machines, and hasn't yet stopped to ask anyone if this is a good idea," said Bob Orr, assistant to the CAW National President.

"They're stripping away jobs and, in some cases, important work hours from its staff. At the same time they're stripping their own patrons of the right to choose how they place their bets."

As part of their campaign efforts, union members have begun a cross-town leafleting drive at teletheatres (as well as Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks), informing patrons of WEG's automation plans and encouraging them to speak out. Information leaflets were held on August 23 at four off-track betting sites that have already converted to full automation. Additional leafleting efforts are planned at other teletheatres over the coming weeks.

CAW Local 2007 President Bob Ciprick, who represents over 380 mutuel tellers at Woodbine, said the general response from patrons so far has been positive.

"Our members deal with these customers each and every day, and have built strong working relationships with them over time. They are equally as frustrated with this decision as we are," Ciprick said.

"Everyone knows that automated services are on the rise, whether in banks, supermarkets or airports, but in all cases customers are given a choice. That's not what Woodbine is offering, and it's not fair."

By the end of August, Woodbine is expected to have fully automated seven of its 22 GTA teletheatres. Impacted tellers, some with over 30 years of service, are facing major scheduling changes as well as cuts to work hours, which directly affect access to benefits and other contract provisions. 

The CAW has not yet called for a full boycott of Woodbine teletheatres, but is instead encouraging customers to place their bets at off-track locations that still employ live tellers.

"We're hoping the company offers us an opportunity to sit down and discuss with them a common-ground approach to automation that protects jobs and protects customers' right to choose," Orr said. "But we're definitely not ruling out the possibility of a full-scale boycott in the near future."

To download a copy of the campaign leaflet, click here.

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