Backtracked … Mark Boyd, NSW secretary of the Union ‘United Voice’.THE union representing hospitality workers, United Voice, has dropped its opposition to smoking by high rollers in VIP gaming rooms in a deal struck over James Packer’s proposed $1 billion hotel and casino at Barangaroo.
A memorandum of understanding between the union and Mr Packer’s Crown Ltd says smoking by high rollers would be a ”commercial necessity” at the complex, which would target the lucrative Asian gambling market.
The agreement is a radical departure from the union’s position in June, when it accused the NSW government of ”gambling with the health of casino workers” by not supporting an opposition push to ban smoking in the Star casino’s high roller room.
The NSW secretary of United Voice, Mark Boyd, said at the time: “The health standards are clear, there is no safe level for tobacco smoke. That’s why it is barred in every other workplace in NSW and these laws are being extended to open areas.”
He added “the casino says working in these rooms is optional but it is clear that failure to work in these rooms can damage career prospects”.
Asked why the union had changed its position, Mr Boyd said it had looked at workplace practices and air filtering technology at Crown’s casino in Melbourne. ”It’s not that we don’t have a concern any more,” he said. ”It’s that if you get rostering and technology right then it’s less of an issue.”
Under the deal, United Voice will have an office in the complex and union officials will be able to make presentations to employees during induction training.
Mr Boyd said the number of jobs available in the high roller rooms at Barangaroo would be ”a very small percentage” of the overall workforce.
The former federal Liberal leader John Hewson has questioned the NSW government’s handling of the project, which it has agreed to move to the second stage of an approval process.
Mr Packer’s proposal is being assessed under the government’s ”unsolicited proposal” process, which means if cabinet decides to award a second Sydney casino licence it will not go to tender.
”The problem here is that people perceive that Packer’s bulldozed this through,” Dr Hewson told ABC radio. He also criticised Mr Packer’s claim that even if there had been a tender, he would have won.
The Sydney lord mayor, Clover Moore, said she was appalled by the lack of transparency in the process. ”There’s no public consultation and it’s all been done behind closed doors by both the major parties to James Packer,” she said. ”It’s public land. It’s probably one of the most important sites in Australia”.
A Crown spokesman declined to comment.
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