Foxwoods, union dealers headed to arbitration

Mashantucket - Contract negotiations between Foxwoods Resort Casino management and the union for some 2,200 table-games dealers are about to enter an arbitration phase with the sides far apart on wages, health insurance and other issues.

UAW at Foxwoods, Local 2121, whose members' first, two-year contract had been set to expire Dec. 31, had agreed to extend the terms of the agreement until March 31, which was Saturday.

After six months of negotiations, the union received management's first economic proposal Thursday, according to a bargaining update on the union's website.

"Although the union has requested interest arbitration, we believe that it is in the best interest of both parties to reach a negotiated agreement and have asked management for more bargaining dates," the union says. "At this time, management hasn't offered any additional dates for further negotiations."

The union says an arbitrator will be picked this week, "after which arbitration dates will be scheduled."

In response to a request for comment, Bill Satti, director of public affairs for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods, said in a statement, "We greatly value our team members represented by the UAW and we are working towards a mutually beneficial outcome."

The union did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the union's website, while Local 2121 has proposed wage increases effective Jan. 1, 2012; Jan. 1, 2013; and Jan. 1, 2014, management has indicated it will only discuss raises if the union agrees to its demands on "increased flexibility, a daily toke (tip) and health care cost-shifting to employees."

Under management's proposal, the union says, employees' share of health insurance costs would increase 200 percent over the next three years.

The union has proposed that Foxwoods meet established air-quality standards for smoke-free gaming areas; submit to periodic air-quality testing; monitor the effect of smoke on employees' health; properly maintain the ventilation system; and allow the union to inspect the ventilation system.

Other unresolved issues, according to the union, include maintaining the current ratio of full- to part-time employees; arbitration of disciplinary disputes; and the restoration of a previously suspended bonus program.

Foxwoods management is also negotiating its first contract with Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents about 400 beverage workers. A third union, Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, ratified its first contract with Foxwoods last October.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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