PCMR ski patrollers get year-end bonus after reentering previous contract
Deal runs through May 1 and prevents a strike or lockout, longer-term agreement still the goal
Park City Mountain Resort ski patrollers will be getting a year-end bonus after all, joining the rest of their colleagues after agreeing Friday to reenter an employment contract in a short-term fix that sets terms for the rest of this ski season.
The parties also agreed to continue negotiating for a longer-term solution, agreeing to bargain for a new, multi-year deal.
The president of the union, Joe Naunchick, claimed PCMR owner Vail Resorts deliberately used the bonuses to try to gain leverage in negotiations that have stretched on since August.
“It was a shame that the company used this bonus as a bargaining tool,” Naunchik said. “Every employee that interacted with guests deserved this bonus, whether they were unionized or not. … It was a bargaining tactic by Vail to see what they could extract from the union.”
PCMR spokesperson Jessica Miller wrote in a prepared statement in response to a Park Record inquiry that the results of Friday’s successful bargaining session provide more stability for both the resort and the patrollers through the end of the extended ski season.
“As a part of the agreement, Park City patrollers will be eligible to receive the end-of-season bonus that Vail Resorts is issuing to 28,000 employees in recognition of everyone’s hard work and shared commitment to keep our guests and one another safe throughout this entire season,” Miller said. “This further aligns the unionized patrollers compensation with the rest of our company’s patrollers. We would much prefer to have granted this bonus to them directly as we did with all other employees, versus through a union negotiation, but respect their decision to have all compensation matters negotiated.”
An email previously obtained by The Park Record from PCMR Chief Operating Officer Mike Goar informed the union that its members wouldn’t be eligible for the bonuses because they had chosen to collectively bargain their employment contracts, unlike non-unionized workers.
Naunchik indicated that hadn’t prevented similar bonuses from being paid out in the past.
The bonuses were set to be paid out to nearly all workers in good standing with the company who have worked more than 40 hours this season. According to documents obtained by The Park Record, the bonuses range from $100 to $1,500.
The Park City Professional Ski Patrollers Association represents about 200 patrollers and mountain safety personnel and has been negotiating for months with Vail Resorts to secure an employment contract.
The previous two-year contract lapsed in November, after which the union agreed to an extension, before opting out Jan. 1. Patrollers have since been working without a contract, though they still received salaries and benefits. The contract prevented the union from striking and Vail Resorts from locking out the patrollers, though neither side opted to escalate the labor dispute to that level in the months since the contract lapsed.
Reentering the contract secured the year-end bonuses while preventing a lockout or strike.
Naunchik said the union had hoped to secure a deal before this season began. The union’s main goals are a year-over-year pay increase and to improve sick leave benefits so that patrollers wouldn’t have to work more than two seasons before they are eligible.
He said the union now hopes to hammer out a new contract by the end of the season and said talks were scheduled to resume this week. Miller wrote that the negotiations have been productive and positive.
“With bargaining dates scheduled through April, we are hopeful we will reach a new multi-year collective bargaining agreement soon,” she wrote.
The patrollers have hinted at a work action like a strike by holding what they called “educational rallies” twice this winter in Park City, holding signs and talking to passersby in hopes of eliciting community support for the union’s fight.
Goar personally joined the negotiations just before the busy Presidents Day weekend, and Naunchik said his presence has made the negotiations more amicable but that the company’s positions haven’t shifted.
Naunchik said the union agreed to adopt the terms of the previous agreement, an arrangement that will expire May 1. The union will then attempt to negotiate a full contract rather than trying to negotiate a contract extension.
“Not all of the contract’s terms are something we want to work under going forward,” Naunchik said.
The patroller’s union is a subset of the much larger Communication Workers of America labor union. Vail Resorts has resisted unionization in the past, including after combining PCMR and then-Canyons Resort in 2015.
This current labor push comes as a new ski patrol union at Stevens Pass in Washington negotiates its first contact, and patrollers at Keystone Resort and Big Sky Resort are in the process of filing with the National Labor Relations Board to start their own unions.
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