As a casino table games dealer for more than five years Frank Sermeliotis ought to know something about what winning looks and sounds like. And so he does, but it is not the flashing lights, ringing bells and the rattle of poker chips that might first come to mind.
Frank’s big win is the sound of his children at play while he has the time to spend with them. Since the 12 month We Are Crown campaign ended with a series of four per cent pay rises and a career restructure where dealers are rewarded for their experience and years in the job rather than the number of games they can deal, Frank is reorganising his life.
His priorities – his wife, Jess, and their three children Jacob, Alexander and Lily – remain the same. How much of the kids’ precious early years he can share directly with them is where change comes into play.
The message at the United Voice delegate’s conference near the end of 2013 was that when members stand together they can change lives. Frank and his family are proof of that.
“I am getting a nine per cent pay increase, but it will be 13 per cent in March when I hit six years (as a dealer),” says Frank.
“It means I don’t have to work as much. It means more time at home as I will earn about the same. I am liking the fact that I can be home, just spending time with the kids. My two year old is my best friend. My family is very important to me.”
Certainly, Frank understands family. He comes from a big extended family himself where big occasions were recognised with big dinners, which was probably an influencing in shaping his first career choice as an apprentice chef. He trained at well-known northern suburban hotels such as the Moreland Hotel and the First and Last, specialising in Mediterranean food.
“The thing about big families, you always have a meal together. My grandmother was Austrian: she would cook a big feast. My other grandmother was Greek: another day, another big feast.
“For most of my time I enjoyed that work (as a chef), but you work so hard you get burned out. And the hours are anti-social.”
His hours at the casino, where he usually starts work at 8pm, finishing at 4am, are still 'anti-social' but there is more flexibility.
“At the casino I can always arrange a day off if I need it. There are other people there who can help me. In cooking I didn’t have time off with the family and I worked very hard with not much recognition. As far as a pay rise was concerned, there was no such thing as a union. I didn’t get a pay rise for three years.”
At Crown about 4500 workers will receive four per cent pay rises over the next three years under the new enterprise bargaining agreement. Part time staff will more easily be able to move to full time, and hotel and security staff must be consulted before services can be out-sourced.
Staff displaced by out-sourcing may be offered alternative work and table games dealers like Frank are in line for pay increments after one, two, four, five, six, 10, 15 and 20 years. Many, dealers will receive an immediate 13 per cent pay rise.
The campaign was Frank’s first experience of union activism. It left him mystified by the sort of criticism unions sometimes receive in the mass media. “I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. Don’t those people have families? Are those people super rich?” he said of newspaper letter writers who sledge unions as a matter of course.
Having worked in a gruelling environment where there was no union in that previous career, he can appreciate the difference workers organising together can make.
“I was not active in the last (EBA), that’s why I got involved in this one,” he says.
“I know there are some (workers at Crown) who did not get quite what they wanted. The only thing that I did not get that I hoped for is the extra week paid annual leave so I got about 90 per cent of what I wanted. I have learned if you band together you can get what you want.
“There was a huge difference from the last (EBA). The campaign was just everywhere. It was a bad thing, not to be in the union this time around.”