Kawartha Downs horsepeople are concerned about their future and the changes that might come with it, as the labor union representing them and protecting their rights could be nixed. It was recently confirmed that the Ontario Harness Horse Association is going to fight for the rights of the individuals relying on it, even though Ontario Racing and Woodbine Entertainment threatened its future operation.
Funding is essential for the healthy operation of any given union, especially when it comes to the horse racing sector that could often face struggles. Over the past few weeks, Ontario Harness Horse Association has been through a turmoil, because of a recent announcement coming from Woodbine Entertainment Group. The giant was joined by Ontario Racing in the issuing of a statement informing the horsepeople union that there is a change of plans that has not been discussed or voted by people directly affected by it.
Kawartha Downs Refuses to Sign OR Agreement
With only sixty days ahead of it, the two entities announced that health, insurance and retirement benefits of people working in the sector would no longer be overseen by Ontario Harness Horse Association. There are currently more than 2,600 individuals relying on its support. Essentially, Ontario Racing said that as of March 31, it would no longer be funding the union, but that’s not all.
As it turns out, going forward the only association that would be recognized by Ontario Racing and Woodbine Entertainment is going to be the Central Ontario Standardbred Association. At the moment it protects the rights of horsepeople working at the Woodbine Mohawk Park. If everything goes according to the plan announced by the two racing entities, the association is going to protect all individuals within Ontario’s Standardbred sector.
What is concerning for many people, however, is the fact that this change of the status quo that would have a significant impact on people in the sector has not been voted in a democratic manner and people are discontent by this move. Among the cited reasons, Ontario Racing pointed out that the Central Ontario Standardbred Association has an Ontario Racing membership.
People Fear They Will Remain Voiceless
At an earlier point of the conversation, Ontario Harness Horse Association declined the offer to join Ontario Racing, since it is in direct breach of the existing funding agreement it arranged with the Liberal government. It is going to cover the following nearly two decades of operation. April 1 is the deadline for signing the agreement, but for the time being Kawartha Downs, Leamington Raceway, and Hiawatha Horse Park have refrained from doing so.
They disagree with the fact that it changes the game entirely and supposedly it refuses people some of their mandatory protections. Now Ontario Public Service Employees Union joined the harness racing union, supporting its position that this would be an unfair use of authority. Smokey Thomas, President of OPSEU, stated that the government has made a mistake by providing Woodbine Entertainment with such power.
Funding for OHHA comes as a result of purse cash. OHHA General Manager Brian Tropea said that OHHA is inconvenient right now and Ontario Racing wants to deprive it of the voice it has. From his point of view, this agreement would give racetrack operators more power than they currently have when it comes to decision making. Ontario government has been notified about the horsepeople’s concerns and the fact that they are seeking help.