06/21/2006 11:00PM

Woodbine clerks on strike


Pickets were in place at all seven entrances to Woodbine late Thursday morning after parimutuel workers walked off the job here at 6 p.m. Wednesday over a dispute regarding scheduling and seniority.

Members of the Canadian Racetrack Workers Union, which is aligned with the Teamsters Canada, Local 419, voted on Wednesday to strike. Brian Lawrence, vice president of the Teamsters branch, said that approximately 300 of the racetrack workers union's 600 members had participated in the vote and that the margin in favor of striking was "very decisive."

Woodbine management and supervisory staff are manning the mutuels. As of Thursday, no further negotiations were scheduled, with Sunday's Queen's Plate Day one of the major days of the meet.

"We are not prepared to make an imprudent business decision based on one day of racing," said Jane Holmes, Woodbine's vice president of corporate affairs. "For us, it's business as usual. We have not locked out the mutuel workers. They are allowed to come into work."

There are no plans to bring in replacement workers, said Holmes, who encouraged bettors to use automated wagering machines or the track's account-wagering network.

Negotiations between the Woodbine Entertainment Group and the union have been deadlocked over the issue of work scheduling. Woodbine wants mutuel clerks to work shorter shifts, while the union wants longer shifts manned by more full-time workers.

Woodbine also has failed to agree to the union's positions on minimum seniority requirements and the size of the seniority list.

"The issue is job security," said Lawrence.

Lawrence said a total of 200 picketers could be utilized, with strikers being supported by members of other Teamsters Canada locals.