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The Canyons ski patrol locked out

Kelly Evertsen, Of the Record Staff

The Canyons faces the possibility of starting the season without a ski patrol.

Canyons officials said Wednesday night that the 50-plus ski patrollers of The Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association will be locked out of the resort until the company and ski-patrol union come to an accord for the season.

There had been confusion at The Canyons about whether a lockout was in place.

"There’s been some miscommunication," said Canyons Official Todd Burnette on Wednesday at about 5 p.m. "We have not locked them out, we’re just waiting [to come to an agreement]."

Spokesperson Libby Dowd said in an e-mail Wednesday afternoon that the resort had stopped five union members from attending an avalanche safety and ski patrol workshop at Snowbird because the union company could not reach a deal.

If an agreement is not reached before opening day on Nov. 17, Canyons officials said the entire ski patrol will be locked out.

"Our last deadline of October 19, 2007 was given after multiple extensions," Dowd wrote in an e-mail. "This deadline exists to ensure that the resort will have a well-trained ski patrol this season, even if an agreement cannot be reached with the union."

The union voted Canyons’ contract proposal down after its negotiating committee and The Canyons representatives met on Sept. 9. The Canyons’ "final offer" for a contract did not appeal to union members and it was rejected. The Canyons agreed to meet again on Oct. 12 to resume negotiations. Instead, said Megan McKenna, business manager of the union, rather than continuing negotiations, The Canyons came back with "an even less favorable proposal," stating the union would be locked out of the resort if it did not accept a "final offer" within one week.

McKenna argued it is impossible to send out ballots and gather votes from all union members within one week. Many members, she explained, live outside the state and will not be returning to Park City until training sessions are scheduled to begin Nov. 5. After requesting an extension of time to gather the ballots, The Canyons told the union a decision still must be made by Oct. 27 or the ski patrol will continue to be locked out.

The disputes have nothing to do with wages or benefits. McKenna said the union voted down the contract proposal because The Canyons wanted to change the regular contract negotiation schedule from the fall to the spring.

"Our disagreement is about when we negotiate the terms of the agreement," McKenna said. "Currently, we [start] negotiating in the summer, and it’s been a problem because, in the summer, [ski patrollers] are doing other things."

McKenna argued the resort is at more of an advantage if negotiations are scheduled in the spring or summer instead of the fall. She said this gives the company more time to make changes in the terms of the new contract. That schedule decreases the possibility of a strike or lockout if the union decides to vote down the proposed contract, she said.

"They’re definitely at an advantage if we negotiate during the summer," McKenna said. "They don’t want to give that up because they think that we’re at too big of an advantage in the fall [and] if we don’t come to an agreement like where we are right now the union could strike or the company could lock [us] out."

Burnette argued that for two years, The Canyons has negotiated with the union in the fall and said the current schedule does not favor either side. The union brought a job action against The Canyons last fall when union members voted down the contract proposal for the 2006-2007 season. While an agreement was eventually made, it occurred just before the season opened. Burnette and Dowd said, if the union continues to vote down proposals, they fear it will result in an ill-trained ski patrol at the start of each new season.

"It doesn’t put anyone in a good position," Burnette said. "We’ve proposed that we would negotiate in the February-March period." He argued against McKenna’s assertion that spring is a bad time for negotiations because, he said, a spring negotiation schedule is just as favorable as a fall schedule because patrollers will still be working at that time and will be able to meet for negotiations.

McKenna said the union also disagrees with the two-year commitment proposed in the new contract. Union members fear the new owners of the resort will alter employment packages once new ownership is in place, she said.

"There’s just so many uncertainties with the new company coming in. You could lose benefits and job security," McKenna said. "When a new company comes in, legally, they have to recognize the Union, but they don’t have to recognize the contract."

The union formed in 2000, after ASC took over the resort. The union has since negotiated with The Canyons to create a collective bargaining agreement or contract that both parties must abide by, the press release reads.

Dowd, Burnette and McKenna see the possibility of the union and The Canyons coming to an agreement before the resort is scheduled to open on Nov. 17. McKenna said she is sure the union will vote down The Canyons final proposal again. But, Burnette said, The Canyons is scheduled to open on Nov. 17, regardless of whether they reach an agreement. He said if the Union and resort do not come to an agreement by then, patrollers will not be allowed to work without a contract. Burnette said The Canyons is willing to hire a new Ski Patrol if necessary.

"We do remain hopeful that the union membership will vote to accept the offer on the table," Dowd said. "We sincerely want our ski patrol employees to report for duty once the ski season starts and we have a contract in place."

McKenna said while she is not sure what will happen if Union members again reject The Canyons’ "final offer" for contracts after the ballots are counted on Oct. 27, she hopes the resort’s management will work with the union and allow patrollers to start training Nov. 5.

"We are counting votes on [Oct. 27] and we’ll let the company know then. We still think our union will shut it down," McKenna said. "On Nov. 5, [all the patrollers] are back. It’s basically up to the company if we don’t come to an agreement. It’s up to them to decide if they want to continue the lockout."


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