Amy Roberts: An utter vailure
In my “big girl job,” I work for a communications agency based in New York. We pay New York salaries, provide exceptional benefits, have a permanent work from home policy, and frankly, we’re a damn cool group of people. We consistently earn five-star ratings for company culture, benefits and pay. And yet, it’s still a struggle to fill positions right now. I currently have two six-figure salary jobs open and have been interviewing candidates for over a month. Hiring right now is a lot like dating over 40 — options are extremely limited and you’re going to have to deal with some crazy.
In the few weeks I’ve been interviewing, I’ve had candidates request eight weeks of vacation per year, ask for double the already generous starting salary, and one even told me he was only willing to work from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., but assured me he was exceptionally efficient.
I’ve spent enough time on LinkedIn to know this seems to be the case across industries. It’s an employee market right now. Freelancing and side hustles are lucrative. Being selective about the type of work you take on is empowering. And setting a schedule that’s right for you is rewarding. So if an employer needs employees to work specific hours, accept the tasks assigned to them, and generally be loyal to the company, they better be willing to pay top dollar — a concept that Vail Resorts seemingly struggles to grasp.
By now most locals are aware the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association has been negotiating with Vail Resorts for the better part of two years. The starting salary for a ski patroller at Park City Mountain Resort is $13.25 per hour — making a first-year patroller the lowest-paid Vail Resorts employee in town. Vail Resorts offered $15 per hour, but the union has been holding out for a $17 per hour starting wage. And on Monday night, the two parties met for the 50th time, hoping to hammer out an agreement.
The meeting was held after my deadline (and bedtime), so it’s possible a deal will have been reached before this goes to print. But the fact that we’re even at this point — requiring medically trained first responders who carry explosives strapped to their backs — to fight for $2 per hour is, well, an utter vailure. Babysitters make more than $15 an hour. So do dog walkers. The grocery store is advertising a starting wage of $24 per hour. And none of them have to haul someone with a bleeding head off an icy hill in sub-zero temperatures.
A few days ago, over 98% of the union voted to authorize a strike should a deal not be reached. A total of 168 members out of the 171 agreed to a possible work stoppage, with 14 eligible patrollers not casting a secret ballot. I’m guessing they couldn’t afford a pen.
Amid, or perhaps because of, all of this, on Monday, Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch sent an email to employees saying hourly employees will receive a $2 per hour bonus for any hours worked from Jan. 1 through the end of the ski season. For employees who work a 40-hour a week and stay through April 15, that’s an extra $1,200. Except it’s really not since bonuses are generally taxed around the 30% mark. So it’s more like $800, roughly the equivalent of one Epic Pass or three slices of pizza and one beer on the mountain. As of my deadline, Park City ski patrollers would not be eligible for this bonus because it’s specific to union employees with an accepted contract.
In her email to employees announcing this life-changing bonus plan, Lynch said Vail Resort’s mission is to “give guests the Experience of a Lifetime.” And that’s about the only thing the company got right this season. After all, most would consider paying upwards of $7,000 for Epic passes, airfare and lodging for family ski trip to Park City, only to arrive and find half the mountain still closed, lift lines over an hour long and customer service akin to what you get at the DMV, an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their life.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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