07/06/2006 11:00PM

Woodbine mutuel clerk strike settled

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Woodbine's pari-mutuel workers, who have been on strike since June 21, were scheduled to be back on the job as of noon Saturday after an undisclosed majority voted in favor of a new contract on Thursday night.

Woodbine and representatives of the Canadian Racetrack Workers Union, which is aligned with Teamsters Local 419, had resumed negotiations on Wednesday night.

"We're delighted to have a settlement," said Nick Eaves, senior vice president of Woodbine. "Obviously you never like to go through any sort of a disruption.

"It's just not good for customers; it's not good for the business."

Brian Henderson, president of the Canadian Racetrack Workers, said more than 300 of the group's approximately 680 members were on hand when the offer was presented.

"We're very happy when the membership supports the union, and it did throughout this," said Henderson.

"The membership supported the picket lines, which is a big thing for the integrity of the union and in establishing a bargaining position. Two offers were turned down at the recommendation of the union; one offer was accepted at the recommendation of the union."

The fundamental issue in the disagreement between Woodbine and the mutuel workers involved the length of shifts, which were limited to 4 1/2 hours.

Woodbine wanted seniority-list mutuel employees to work an average of 24 hours a week in order to receive benefits. The union wanted longer shifts to make that goal more readily attainable.

"We will still have a number of 4 1/2-hour shifts, but at least on all shifts you will get credit for five hours towards your 24 hours," said Henderson.

Henderson also said the three-year agreement includes a 50 cents an hour increase each year and a buyout package based on years of service, which he expects some mutuel workers to take.

"That will free up more hours for the people who are left," said Henderson.