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Furloughs, layoffs hit MGM Resorts due to coronavirus crisis

Updated March 14, 2020 - 12:04 am

Significant furloughs and layoffs have begun at MGM Resorts International properties in response to the coronavirus crisis and the resulting collapse of tourism.

A letter sent Friday evening to the company’s workforce from MGM President and Chief Operating Officer Bill Hornbuckle, obtained by the Review-Journal, said about 150 food and beverage outlets will be closed Monday, with more closing on a rolling basis, and that the company will temporarily close its MGM Northfield Park property in Ohio.

Layoffs have begun “in areas most immediately impacted by the slowdown in demand,” the letter said.

In Las Vegas, the workforce reduction hit everywhere, from front desk workers at The Mirage to bellmen and cocktail servers at Bellagio to housekeeping staff at New York-New York, sources told the Review-Journal.

Specific numbers of affected employees were not available late Friday. MGM representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

“These decisions are never made lightly, and we deeply regret the hardship it will place on these individuals and their families,” Hornbuckle wrote in the letter.

A part-time front desk employee at Aria received a call Friday saying the worker’s Sunday shift was canceled.

The employee does not know when work will be available again.

“You’re leaving your employees high and dry,” said the employee, who was granted anonymity to protect the worker’s ability to return to the job.

Occupancy down

The changes are being made as MGM properties deal with low occupancy rates. The occupancy rate at the Aria property is set to be 47 percent next Friday, said the employee, who has access to a company computer.

A different Aria front desk employee who works full-time said, “This time in March, we’re (usually) sold out or high-occupancy.”

In his letter to staff, Hornbuckle said the “travel industry has been challenged and our company is no different. Business demand has decreased significantly.”

The low occupancy rate comes, in part, after Las Vegas’ lucrative convention business took several body blows the past few weeks.

As of Friday afternoon, organizers had pulled the plug or shelved at least 23 conferences, comprising an estimated 424,600-plus attendees, a running tally maintained by the Review-Journal shows.

According to a report by consulting firm Applied Analysis for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, visitors spent $34.5 billion in Southern Nevada in 2018, directly supporting more than 234,000 tourism jobs.

‘You are a number’

The full-time front desk worker at Aria said management told workers Thursday that half the front desk staff would be laid off. The employee did not want to be named for fear of losing their job.

The part-time Aria employee said management began calling employees to the front desk Thursday afternoon, telling them hours would be cut for those not in the top-seniority spots and those cut should apply for unemployment.

The part-time employee said many of those who didn’t have a shift at that time were later notified through social media or text messages.

They said a lot of employees feel betrayed after the announcement.

“Removing all those people, that built a lot of distrust among staff,” one of the workers said. “We’re being told at no point in time is your job safe. … They’re being told, ‘You are a number.’”

Meanwhile, the part-time employee said MGM CEO Jim Murren’s $32 million exit package — announced last month — seemed unfair to all the employees who don’t know where their next paychecks will come from.

“When things started breaking apart, he made sure he put his golden parachute together,” the worker said. “That’s not fair.”

Unemployment

Employees affected by the furloughs and layoffs will retain their benefits through June 30, according to the letter.

Arturo Tavira, who was a part-time busser at Le Cirque in Bellagio, said his manager told him the restaurant would only be open two days out of the week.

It’s been roughly three weeks since Tavira has been scheduled, and he said there have been an increasing number of jobs cut in the last week.

“I’m glad to be laid off waiting for my unemployment check at this point,” he said. “There’s no money to be made at my job anyways, because I make most of my income from tips.”

The part-time Aria employee isn’t sure what to do next. The worker has reached out to “friends and friends-of-friends” for any job leads, but is worried that nothing will pay as well. The Aria job paid about $18 an hour.

Right now, the plan is to find a job the person can quit “in a second” and return to high-paying Aria when the virus reaction settles down.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

Bill Letter 03.13.2020_FINAL by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

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