The coronavirus pandemic has been rough on the casino industry. As an industry that is considered non-essential, casinos shut down early when the pandemic became an issue in March and began to reopen starting in May to July, depending on the region. In Nevada, casinos began reopening in June at a 50% capacity. Employees were greatly affected as they were furloughed during the closure and some have still not come back to work as the venues are operating at a lower capacity then normal with many amenities still not on offer. For Las Vegas employees, they have been battling for health coverage while furloughed. Union members were able to see a victory this week after signing a deal with MGM and Caesars for continued coverage.
Keeping Family Health Benefits
Tens of thousands of employees who were furloughed at casinos owned by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Inc. will now have health benefits through March 1. An agreement was reached this week regarding unions that represent employees in the culinary and beverage industry.
The pact was announced at the beginning of the week, affecting 36,000 union employees at properties across the Las Vegas Strip. The decision was made the very same day that MGM decided to lay off 18,000 employees at locations across the United States. Negotiations took place for months regarding employee safety and job protections, beginning when the casinos closed in March.
With the new deal, employees can keep their benefits for some time, even if they are furloughed at this time. They also can retain seniority benefits when they return to their jobs in the future.
The unions covering the bartenders and culinary employees said that the agreement signed on Monday will affect 24,000 workers at MGM properties and 12,000 at Caesars. Officials are trying to secure a similar deal for around 24,000 employees at other casinos and hotels in Las Vegas.
In this deal, the companies agreed they would provide 10 paid days off for employees who must quarantine due to health guidelines. Disciplinary action will not be taken against any employees who are isolated with symptoms of the coronavirus. Employees will be provided up to six weeks of unpaid leave and they have a chance to change their position within the company if a position opens up.
While tourists are returning to Las Vegas, the numbers are still vastly below the pre-pandemic levels. Hotel rooms remain empty and the overall visitor volume is still down over 60%. Travelers are still limiting flights into the area, so most of the visitors are coming via the highway.
This new development is certainly a win for employees as they look to regain employment or at least hold on to benefits during this uncertain time. The hope is that tourist numbers will increase and those who are furloughed will be able to return to work. Once the capacity restrictions are lifted, it should bring in more patrons which would require a need for more employees, so those who are furloughed could return.