Vail Resorts hikes its minimum wage to $10 per hour | ParkRecord.com

Vail Resorts hikes its minimum wage to $10 per hour

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Vail Resorts, a major employer in the Park City area, said on Thursday it will pay workers at least $10 per hour in the United States, a figure that is well above the federal minimum wage and the state-mandated minimum in Utah.

The policy will be effective Sept. 26, as the Colorado-based firm staffs up for the ski season. The minimum wage in Utah is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal benchmark. In a message to company employees, Rob Katz, the chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, said the company wants to raise its minimum wage annually by a figure linked to inflation.

"We are taking this step because it is incumbent on us to do the right thing for our employees as well as remain competitive as an employer," Katz said in the one-page message. "It’s important to acknowledge that this new minimum wage does not address all of our compensation issues and many may feel that even with this increase, entry-level wages are still not high enough. But, it is a big step forward and will not be the last step we take, even for this upcoming season."

Vail Resorts owns Park City Mountain Resort and operates Canyons Resort as part of a long-term lease with the Talisker corporate family. The company intends to link the two into a single property this summer, creating the largest mountain resort in the U.S. PCMR and Canyons Resort historically have been two of the largest employers in Summit County. Vail Resorts has other business interests in the Park City area as well, including a management deal to operate the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Park City/The Yarrow.

Vail Resorts provided a fact sheet outlining the $10-per-hour minimum wage. Some of the details include:

  • someone who earns less than $10 per hour will receive a raise to that rate in most cases. If an employee’s yearly merit raise pushes their salary to above $10 per hour, they will earn the higher of the two.
  • the hourly wage of employees who receive gratuities will not be increased to $10 per hour. Vail Resorts said "as applicable, we will ensure that those employees who receive gratuities as part of their wages receive at least $10 per hour, including gratuities."
  • the increase of the company’s minimum wage will not be "offset by increased prices at our resorts and across our operations." It says wage and pricing decisions are "unique and not dependent upon one another."

    "The topic of minimum wage has also become a ‘political’ issue. Our Company is not trying to make a ‘statement.’ We are simply doing what we think is right for our stakeholders our employees, guests, communities, mountains and shareholders," Katz said in the message.

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    Vail Resorts said the increase is anticipated to affect 7,500 employees out of the firm’s 25,000-strong work force in eight states. It is not known how many will be in Park City.

    Peter Earle, the president of the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association, said the increase is a good step for the resort. The approximately 80-member association is not expected to be immediately impacted since the starting salary for ski patrollers is $10.25 per hour, he said. The union’s two-year contract ends in October. Earle said contract negotiations are ongoing.

    "It’s great for lift operators, housekeepers, the people who are underappreciated," Earle said, adding, "It’s in everyone’s best interest for the resort to keep employees and get good employees from the start."

    In an interview, Kraig Powell, the Republican state representative from Heber whose district stretches into Park City, said the increase is a reflection of the strong economy. Powell addressed the state minimum wage during the 2014 campaign, saying at one point he would consider an increase but would likely support the current figure of $7.25 per hour. His Democratic opponent during the campaign proposed increasing the state minimum wage to $10 per hour as a starting point.

    "I do think it’s a very positive development that employees of a large employer in this area of the state have received an increase in wages," Powell said about the move by Vail Resorts.

    But a Park City housing advocate said in an interview the Vail Resorts increase will not have a large impact. Scott Loomis, the executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, said rental prices in the Park City area remain high. Loomis said the Vail Resorts increase signals the firm is having difficulty recruiting employees. He criticized the firm’s work force housing efforts.

    "Rents keep going up here to the point people are paying $1,200, $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment," Loomis said, adding, "It will have minimum effect."

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