Jeff Kennett behind shameful deal to sack casino workers

“Crown Casino is the epitome of greed”, Cameron, a member of the Electrical Trades Union, says as we chat. We’re on our way to the casino, Australia’s biggest single-site employer. Union members and supporters are handing out leaflets as we snake our way through the lunchtime traffic.

We’re heading to Crown to protest its decision to sack 16 of its gaming techs – most of them long-term employees – at the end of the month. Their highly specialised jobs maintaining Crown’s sea of pokies are being outsourced. The “external supplier” that has been contracted to “deliver services, parts and labour” to Crown is owned by Liberal former premier Jeff Kennett. The move will further add to the coffers of the Crown Resorts monolith, which raked in a net profit of $393.6 million last financial year.

Kennett has a well-known history of shady dealing with Crown Casino. As Victorian premier in 1993, Kennett, despite widespread opposition over plans for a casino, awarded the lucrative licence to run Victoria’s only casino to his Liberal Party mates Ron Walker and Lloyd Williams, who would later sell to Kerry Packer.

Workers employed by Kennett’s pokies maintenance outfit, Amtrek Corporation, will be paid around half of what the current technicians receive. And even if they wanted to do the same work on half the pay, the Crown workers are prohibited from applying for any of the “new” jobs under Crown’s redundancy policy.

“It’s bad enough that the casino’s prepared to steal from gamblers. It’s an absolute fraud that they’ll steal from workers as well”, John Webb, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union organiser, says. The AMWU isn’t involved in the Crown dispute, but it knows that outsourcing is a scourge that can affect any industry.

When we arrive at the casino, Victorian Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilikari explains that the Crown 16 have been threatened with the sack if they set foot in the rally. The state secretary of the ETU, Troy Gray, and ACTU secretary Sally McManus address the crowd. But it’s an ETU delegate involved in last year’s CUB protest, Paul Jeffares, whose call to arms stands out:

“The only real answer to such organised greed … is organised labour … Fundamental change will only come by good, decent hard-working people, standing around fires in 44-gallon drums in the middle of the night, with nothing more than a belief that we can make a difference.”

To find out more about the ETU’s campaign to save the Crown 16, visit www.frown.com.au.