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5 cents per hour is crux of delay on Batavia Downs Gaming contract with service union

BATAVIA – Although a nickel-per-hour difference in pay over a three-year period may seem like a small amount, it apparently is enough to keep Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. and its Batavia Downs Gaming employees from agreeing on a new contract.

Management and the 160-member United Public Service Employees Union, or UPSEU, have been negotiating for nearly two years but have been unable to forge a pact to replace the one that expired at the end of 2013.

Philip J. Sedlock, UPSEU labor relations representative, said the union is seeking a retroactive raise of 45 cents per hour for 2015, and raises of 35 cents per hour for 2016 and 30 cents per hour for 2017.

Sedlock said the increases are based on a pay rate of $10 per hour, noting that the workers’ hourly pay ranges from the minimum wage to about $13. About 90 percent work part time, 20 to 29 hours per week, as bartenders, servers, attendants, custodians, clerks, security guards and dishwashers.

WROTB’s latest offer, confirmed Thursday by Branch Operations Director Sean S. Schiano, is a retroactive increase of 35 cents per hour for 2015, and raises of 40 cents per hour in 2016 and 30 cents per hour in 2017.

The difference, when adding the three years together, is 5 cents – $1.10 per hour that the union is seeking and $1.05 per hour that Batavia Downs is offering. No retroactive pay is being sought for 2014.

Sedlock said the lack of a current contract has affected employee morale, especially considering that Batavia Downs has consistently increased its revenues.

“Batavia Downs has enjoyed tremendous success over the past 10 years, with 2015 being their best year ever,” Sedlock said. “We are disappointed that the gaming employees, who are a large part of that success, can’t be treated more fairly. They are the lowest paid of all the state-run gaming facility workers.”

In January, WROTB directors granted average raises of 3.5 percent to administrative staff for 2016 and granted an average yearly pay raise of 2.1 percent through 2017 to its 150 union employees at OTB branches, who generally earn more than the union’s gaming workers.

Sedlock added that the gaming union was agreeable to no pay raises for minimum-wage employees in 2016 and 2017 – only retroactive pay for 2015 – since those workers received a state-mandated increase recently to $7.50 per hour.

Gaming union employees also get a one-time yearly bonus of 2.2 percent of their gross salary from the previous year for each 1 percent rise in the facility’s revenue, Sedlock said, and the bonuses range from $50 to $200 per employee.

Schiano said the union employees were able to get a larger bonus this year – more than 3 percent – due to a $5 million increase in the facility’s handle. He said the company’s offer is a “good deal.”

“No one in the public sector is getting that (kind of offer),” he said. “We want to give them a raise; they’ve worked hard, but we also want to be able to be able to invest in our future by improving the facility to ensure they keep receiving their bonuses.”

The union plans to file a fact-finding document with the Public Employees Relations Board in anticipation of another meeting with management, Sedlock said.