Fort Erie Issues Termination Notices

Published: December 15, 2008 07:52 pm EST

Just 10 days before Christmas, 190 Fort Erie Race Track employees have learned that they will be terminated effective March of next year.

The company that operates the track, Nordic Gaming Corporation (Nordic), says they will not continue operations in 2009 because they are unwilling to continue to absorb substantial operating losses year after year.

“It’s unbelievable that Premier McGuinty would allow this to happen,” said Phyllis Kennedy, 30-year track employee. “Some Christmas this will be in Fort Erie. We need our elected leaders to step up and remember the purpose of Slots for Tracks.”

SEIU Local 2, the employees’ union, says the provincial government has the power to save those jobs by providing the racetrack a bigger share of the onsite slot revenues through the Slots for Tracks program.

The reason the Province of Ontario directed Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to establish slot machine gaming sites at racing tracks in the first place was to provide economic support for the horse racing industry and its thousands of jobs.

“Now that those jobs are in jeopardy, the province can’t simply continue to take profits from the slots and turn its back on the workers those profits were intended to support,” says Ted Mansell, a union representative. “If the formula is not working in Fort Erie, they need to sit down and figure out how to make it work.”

SEIU believes Premier McGuinty’s government should renegotiate the Slots for Tracks deal to recognize the particular challenges that a Canadian race track near the United States border faces. In keeping with the spirit of the program, the deal should also include language that protects local jobs.

SEIU is also proposing Nordic open-up their books to public scrutiny to prove that they’ve done everything they can to save the track.

“The Slots for Tracks have been a cash cow for the province. Adjusting the profit sharing so that workers can keep their jobs is more than reasonable,” says Mansell. “At a time when there is so much economic uncertainty, here we have a fixable situation. These are jobs that can be saved, and it will make a world of difference to workers and their families in the Fort Erie community.”