Wages a sticking point in PCMR ski patrol contract negotiations
Patrollers seek more than resort’s starting pay of $15 an hour
For The Park Record
Ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort are working without a contract in place for a second season as negotiations over wages between their union and PCMR owner Vail Resorts continue.
Brian Spieker, president of the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association, the union representing ski patrollers and mountain safety personnel, said the “last open item is essentially wages.”
Vail Resorts is offering the patrol its own internal company minimum wage, which is $15 an hour starting for rookies, Spieker said. He said that’s not enough.
“We feel that the minimum wage offer does not address the complexities and skill sets required around ski patrolling, the certifications processes, the medical skills,” he said. “We feel that retention is tied to safety and we want to build and grow experienced patrollers. We don’t feel people are able to stick around for the years that are required to build these stronger, safer skill sets at the wages that are being offered.”
The season that kicked off Nov. 28 at the resort is the second that ski patrollers are working without a contract in place. The previous two-year contract covering the approximately 200 employees expired in November 2020.
The union and the company have been in discussions since August 2020 and held their 44th bargaining session on Monday.
Last January, ski patrollers picketed at PCMR hoping to gain community support. Some demonstrator carried signs saying, “Not on strike just practicing.” Patrollers also demonstrated on Nov. 28 at the Canyons Village base area during PCMR’s opening day.
But Spieker said a strike would be a last resort.
“No one involved wants a strike,” he said. “We very much would like to get a contract in place and get down to the business of ski patrolling. We believe that the company would like this as well. We’re just orbiting around the end here around the point of wages.”
The patrollers’ main goals have been salary increases and better sick leave benefits. The union is proposing preloading of sick leave so patrollers can be eligible for it right away instead of having to wait until they’ve worked a certain number of hours.
A sticking point in the negotiations is that many other resorts in the area start patrollers at $17 an hour and that $2-an-hour difference makes it hard to keep employees long-term, according to the union.
“Under this proposal, our patrollers approaching a decade of experience will make under $20/hr, and we will have 20 year patrollers receiving less than a 75 cent wage increase,” a statement from the union’s executive board says. “In the face of a dramatic rise in the local cost of living and inflation, we have found ourselves in a deeply challenging situation. To ensure employee retention and a safer resort experience for all, it is critical that this contract moves us toward a livable wage for career patrollers.”
The union says ski patrollers – who provide medical, rescue and avalanche control services and work in adverse terrain and weather conditions – statistically have one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States and Canada and within the ski industry in general.
“The patrol very much believes that the public deserves something more than a minimum wage rescue,” Spieker said.
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