By Doyinsola Oladipo and Ananta Agarwal
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Unions representing hospitality workers in Las Vegas said they reached a “historic” tentative deal with Caesars Entertainment for a new contract for 10,000 employees on Wednesday, two days before a strike threatened to shut down the Strip.
The negotiations come as unions across industries press employers for better pay and benefits, buoyed by a shortage of workers. Casino resort operators have been earning record profits from a steady post-pandemic recovery in Las Vegas tourism.
The Culinary Workers and Bartenders Unions said the tentative five-year contract is of a “historic nature” given the wage increases in the first year and funds allotted to healthcare and pensions, according to Ted Pappageorge, Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer.
Caesars Entertainment, the second-biggest Las Vegas casino operator by number of employees, said the deal provides “meaningful wage increases” and aligns with plans to bring more union jobs to the Strip.
The Las Vegas unions, considered among the most powerful in the United States, said it has also reduced the workload for housekeepers for the first time in 30 years and has negotiated language to be able to campaign and support non-union workers on the strip.
“As a package, we think this is the best contract we’ve ever had,” Pappageorge told reporters on a call.
Visits to the city in September were 4% lower than in the same period in 2019, according to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Room rates, however, have surged more than 47%.
The city is gearing up for events including the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix this month, which is expected to draw thousands of tourists.
“Companies that can’t afford a strike shutdown are going to face the most pressure to make big concessions,” said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan business professor.
“It’s taken a little too long in my opinion,” said Daniel Busby, 33, a fry cook at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino operated by Caesars, before the deal was reached. “We are just asking to be able to live a little bit more comfortably.”
The unions have been in talks with the casinos for about seven months and 95% of their members had voted at the end of September to authorize a city-wide strike.
TALKS WITH MGM, WYNN CONTINUE
Talks with casino operators MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts are yet to yield an agreement ahead of Friday’s deadline for a strike.
A strike at MGM and Wynn would affect nine casino resorts and 25,000 workers, a majority of whom are employed by MGM.
MGM said it expects to reach an agreement with the unions Wednesday and the deal will result in the largest pay increase in the history of its contracts with the unions, MGM chief executive officer, William Hornbuckle told investors on an earnings call.
Wynn said its next bargaining session with the unions is scheduled for Thursday.
MGM has said every 1% increase in wages will equal about $10 million of additional labor costs, according to Truist analyst Barry Jonas.
Jonas estimated that wage increases could lift annual costs by $40 million to $60 million for Caesars and double that amount for MGM, based on their employee figures.
The Culinary and Bartenders unions represent some 53,000 workers based in Vegas.
Caesars and MGM shares gained 1%, while Wynn Resorts dropped 0.3%.
(Reporting by Shivansh Tiwary and Ananta Agarwal in Bengaluru and Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing by Rod Nickel and Stephen Coates)