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Arnold M. Knightly

Riviera, unions reach accord

20 August 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Riviera on Friday reached a tentative accord on a new collective bargaining agreement with the Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165.

The tentative agreement, the second to be reached in this year's contract negotiations between the Culinary and Strip casino companies, will affect 1,000 union employees at the Strip property. The accord must be approved by the workers at a vote scheduled for next week.

"We are pleased that the negotiating committee was able to achieve its goal of protecting the Las Vegas dream for workers at the Riviera," Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor said in a statement.

The union declined to release details of the tentative agreement, citing the pending ratification vote.

The union statement said the deal mirrors the new five-year contract recently reached with Harrah's Entertainment. That agreement included annual raises of 3.7 percent.

Culinary and Harrah's negotiators struck the agreement on June 16, and the union workers ratified the contract the next day.

The contract with Harrah's covers some 15,000 workers represented by the Culinary and Bartenders unions at Harrah's Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, Bally's, Paris, Flamingo and the Rio.

"It is great to see a company like the Riviera ... taking a lead on setting a new standard for casino workers in this town," Taylor said in the statement.

The Riviera did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The tentative agreement comes while the Riviera's parent company, Riviera Holdings Corp., is fielding offers for a possible buyout.

The company received a $34 per share offer from an investment group led by major shareholders May 16, but no agreement has been reached.

The Riviera and Harrah's pacts are the first agreements reached since contracts for workers downtown and the Strip expired May 31.

Extensions were granted as representatives from the union and the various gaming companies continue negotiations, which began in March.

Some 30,000 workers continue to work under extended contracts, including approximately 21,000 at MGM Mirage properties.

No bargaining session between MGM Mirage and union negotiators is currently scheduled.

Both sides last met on June 22, but the union has not received a response to its proposals, Culinary spokeswoman Pilar Weiss said.

The union wants to represent workers at future joint-ventures involving MGM Mirage while the gaming company wants each of its partners to be able to invite the union in if it so desires.

The union is also seeking a yearly wage increase based on estimated future economic conditions while the gaming company wants increases tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Culinary union workers at hotels that have not settled new collective bargaining agreements will vote Sept. 12 to give their negotiating committees authorization to call a strike, union officials said in July.

While the vote doesn't mean there will be a walkout, it gives negotiating committees another bargaining chip during negotiations, according to union representatives.

The union signed a 10-year contract with Wynn Las Vegas in April 2005.