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LVCVA panel declines to recommend bargaining agreement with SEIU

It was public sector versus the private sector Wednesday morning at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

And when the debate ended, the private sector prevailed on a split vote.

At the end of June, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s contract with the Service Employees International Union is up, requiring a new agreement to be struck. Collective bargaining negotiations began Feb. 4, and 95 percent of the union membership ratified the agreement on June 11. When that deal was taken before the authority board of directors’ compensation committee, however, the group was split.

By a 3-2 vote, the five-member committee decided to not recommend the collective bargaining agreement to the full board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority at its next meeting on July 9.

Chuck Bowling, president and COO of the Mandalay Bay; Scott Nielson, executive vice president and chief development officer of Station Casinos; and Kristin McMillan, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce voted against recommending the agreement.

Nielson, for one, wanted more information about the proposed pay increases.

“I guess I’m looking for something that can be tied to empirical numbers as to why these numbers were chosen,” he said.

Among the 17 amended articles were across-the-board yearly pay increases of 3 percent through fiscal 2015, 2.5 percent through fiscal 2017, and 2 percent in fiscal 2018. The total impact of the increases is $2.75 million.

Over the next five years, the authority expects to pay about $135 million in employee expenses related to the contract for items that include wages, pay increases, Medicare and health insurance.

The authority’s vice president of human resources, Mark Olson, said the travel board follows Nevada Revised Statutes and seeks to be in line with other local government agencies. Recently, the Las Vegas Clark County Library District settled a union contract that had pay increases set at 3 percent for the next three years.

“With us just being under that, we believe that was prudent,” Olson said.

But Bowling, McMillan and Nielson didn’t agree with that assessment.

Bowling said that while the economy is doing better, Las Vegas has not completely yet recovered from the recession. In the private sector, many companies aren’t offering increases of any kind, let alone 3 percent.

Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, the other members of the five-member panel, voted in support of the document as is. Collins suggested multiple times that there be no recommendation given to the board because a unanimous consensus wasn’t reached.

But Nielsen said, “I would prefer to keep my motion the way it is.”

Bowling and McMillan agreed, with all three saying it’s their responsibility as the compensation committee to give a recommendation based on the majority vote.

“Our decisions and looking at the right public policy should not be driven by a fear of the outcome of arbitration but be driven by what’s the right thing to do,” McMillan said.

Even after the vote, Collins again said that he wanted to bring no recommendation to the board.

“I wish we could have been unanimous and sent a neutral position,” Collins said.

The union bargaining unit consists of 316 employees, who work in positions such as building engineer, accounting technician, fire prevention coordinator and security officer. In total, the travel authority employs 484 people.

“As with any negotiation there’s a give and take. Neither side gets everything they wish to get,” Olson said.

The human resources department of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is responsible for the collective bargaining agreement with the Service Employees International Union.

“We feel confident it is good both for the employees and the organization,” Olson said.

The compensation committee’s recommendation will be presented at the July 9 board of directors’ meeting for approval. If approved, the contract would go into effect immediately and run through June 30, 2018. If an agreement is not approved through the board of directors, the contract most likely would go to arbitration, during which both sides submit their best offer and an arbitrator selects one.

Mike Coogan, director of public sector at SEIU, said he and Olson had “some spirited negotiations and discussions” in order to come up with the contract. After the committee voted to not recommend it, he said: “I find it a little disheartening to turn around and say you support your management team but don’t trust their decisions. That sends a mixed message.”

A few weeks ago, the board of directors voted to give Rossi Ralenkotter and Luke Puschnig, the president and CEO and general counsel of the authority, 8 percent and 6 percent raises, respectively.

McMillan also was troubled about the five-year length of the contract, saying many local governments are moving to shorter terms that give more flexibility.

Olson said stabilization gives repeat customers, such as the Consumer Electronics Association, confidence and works well for the authority’s business model.

Hafen, who will soon be going through contract negotiations in Henderson, said he will be working toward five-year contracts there.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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