Yesterday evening saw hundreds of dealers, restaurant workers, security guards and hotel staff from the Crown Casino And Entertainment Complex in Melbourne take to the street in protest amid ongoing negotiations over pay.

According to a report from The Sydney Morning Herald, the action was the first public protest by workers at Australia’s largest casino in 13 years and is an attempt to resolve compensation talks that have been ongoing since April.

The newspaper reported that the Victoria casino’s 5,500 staff members are paid the same hourly rate regardless of when they work. Union representatives are calling on operator Crown Resorts Limited to agree to an extra allowance worth up to $2.31 an hour for all those on duty between 7pm and 7am over weekends.

Table games dealer and union delegate Matt Poynter told The Sydney Morning Herald that his job comes with significant sacrifices as he is on duty at the Southbank facility from 8pm to 4am most nights including weekends while his girlfriend works normal hours.

“We miss the general life events that the normal 9-to-5 people take for granted because they are free of an evening,” said the 38-year-old. “I signed up knowing what I was getting into. This is the nature of shift work but it can be quite damaging as far as relationships are concerned and there needs to be a recognition of this personal impact.”

In response, Crown Resorts Limited stated that it prefers to pay all of its employees higher-than-normal hourly rates instead of handing out weekend and overnight compensation. Under existing deals, it declared that a grade-two food and beverage attendant at the venue earns $18.48 per hour, which equates to nearly $36,950 a year. Moreover, the operator explained that a first-year table games dealer takes home about $20 an hour, which works out to almost $39,260 a year and progressively rises to approximately $49,270 after five years.

“Crown employees continue to receive higher pay and conditions than the tourism and hospitality industry,” read a statement from Crown Resorts Limited. “Negotiations are ongoing and we are constructively working with the union to resolve the agreement in a timely manner.”

However, the United Voice casino workers union released the results of a new investigation yesterday that showed an overwhelming majority of workers at the Crown Casino And Entertainment Complex had missed important family events and milestones because they were required to work over the weekends. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed revealed that scheduling meant that they had failed to attend the wedding of a close friend or family member while about 80% had missed important birthdays.

“If you work at Crown Melbourne, chances are you’ll be working at least 40 weekends a year,” Jess Walsh from United Voice, told the newspaper. “The impact this has can be heart-breaking. Many feel they’ve lost touch with important people in their lives.”

Walsh alleged that Crown Resorts Limited was reluctant to recognise its workers’ sacrifices as this might affect the Melbourne venue’s annual profits, which rose by 30% last year to hit approximately $509.6 million.

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