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Howard Stutz

Mandalay, Union Hope to Avert Strike by Meeting Thursday

21 December 2004

While Mandalay Resort Group seeks replacement employees in anticipation of a possible strike by 320 maintenance workers, one final meeting with a federal mediator has been scheduled for Thursday in an effort to end the nearly nine-month labor dispute.

George Scott, business manager for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501, stopped short of calling the meeting a negotiating session, saying the company proposed the sit-down late last week.

"Of course, we'll be happy to meet again," Scott said. "There's a lot at stake."

Representatives of Local 501 informed Mandalay Resort Group on Friday that the union was severing the contract extension that began in March when labor agreements covering maintenance workers and other trades at Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus expired.

By a 214-53 vote, workers rejected the latest contract proposal from the company, a two-tier wage-and-benefits structure, with the first tier covering current employees and the second tier covering new hires. The same workers had voted in September to authorize a strike, but Mandalay and the union entered into negotiations with a federal mediator.

Workers at the three properties could strike as early as Wednesday, but Scott said a strike won't be called until after the sides meet Thursday with the mediator.

Meanwhile, the company is taking steps to hire replacements before any walkout.

Mandalay Resort Group took out three separate display ads Monday in the Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun, seeking experienced maintenance engineers and slot machine technicians for the three properties, as well as engineers to maintain the rides at the Circus Circus Adventuredome.

Several of the attractions could be in danger of shutting down if maintenance workers are unable to make routine, daily and weekly and monthly safety checks.

The pay rates listed were $20.84 per hour at Circus Circus and Excalibur and $20.12 per hour at Luxor.

"The ads speak for themselves," said Mandalay Resort Group executive Mike Sloan of the announcements, which seek workers with three years of experience.

The ads state the positions "may be subject to an ongoing labor dispute."

Sloan would not say if Mandalay Resort Group would lock out the current maintenance staff in advance of impending walkout, only that the casinos, "will do whatever is necessary and is in the best interests of our company to maintain our business operations."

Scott, who spent much of Monday fielding phone calls from the affected workers, called the ads, "interesting," in that the salaries stated were what union employees at the three properties now earn.

"The workers have a lot of questions about the meeting and the ads," Scott said. "We wouldn't call the strike until after we meet with Mandalay, but I hope this might help because it isn't a good feeling to be staging a walkout around Christmas."

Representatives from the union and Mandalay Resort Group met several times with the federal mediator in an effort to break a deadlock.

Earlier this year, Local 501 completed contract negotiations for a new five-year agreement with other properties covered by the contract, which are Bally's, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah's Las Vegas, the Jockey Club, Las Vegas Hilton, Riviera, Sahara and Tropicana. The 780 Local 501 workers at the other properties agreed to about $4.30 an hour increase in wages and benefits.