REGINA -- Casinos Regina and Moose Jaw have laid off around 549 workers and 42 managers one week after closing due to COVID-19.

The Casinos are the only provincial government departments to perform mass layoffs since the pandemic began.

The move caught the worker’s union by surprise.

We had really hoped that as a crown corporation that SaskGaming would actually be a leader of employers and continue paying wages and benefits,” said Marianne Hladun, the prairies regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

It is the first Saskatchewan government layoff related to the threat of COVID-19. There have been no other government or crown layoffs but the province says “should any future layoffs occur, they will be done in accordance with labour standards…”

The casino workers union is filing a grievance.

“We’re looking for all of our legal options,” said Hladun. “While we recognize that the state of emergency there was some indication in there of suspension of employment standards. We will be filing everything that we can and we are saying to the Minister of SaskGaming, the Minister of Labour and the Premier ‘you still have time to make this right.’”

The government has assured casino workers that there will be jobs waiting for them once the threat of COVID-19 has passed.