Union negotiates casino re-opening agreement

September 7, 2020 2:50 PM

On September 3rd, 2020, New York Governor Cuomo announced that casinos in the state will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity beginning Wednesday, September 9th.

Throughout the weekend and in the weeks leading up, HTC President Rich Maroko and the Union’s staff have been in negotiations with the casinos to make sure that those workers who are recalled have adequate safety protections and equipment. We are pleased to announce that we have reached agreements with Resorts World NYC, Resorts World Catskills, Rivers Casino, Empire City Casino, del Lago Resort & Casino, and Saratoga Casino Hotel. These casinos have agreed to sign the Union’s Coronavirus Safety Protocols negotiated with the Hotel Association of New York City in March and June of this year, and to a number of casino-specific safety provisions.

This article is a summary of the significant pieces of the safety agreement for gaming workers, including highlights of the March and June Coronavirus Safety Protocols and the additional, casino specific protections.

This agreement will remain in effect until either 1) there is no longer a declared state of emergency in the region or 2) the Industry Wide Benefit Fund (in the case of Resorts World NYC, Resorts World Catskills, Empire City Casino, and del Lago Resort & Casino) or the employer sponsored health plan (in the case of Rivers and Saratoga) has an FDA approved vaccine against COVID-19, but no earlier than January 1, 2021 and provided the NY State Gaming Commission COVID regulations are rescinded.

I. Preventing Workers and Guests from Contracting COVID-19

Sanitization of Gaming Facilities and Table Game Equipment

The agreement includes the following protections to enhance employee and guest safety. Under the agreement, the casinos are obligated to:

  • Disinfect all shared work equipment that is used by one employee per shift after each shift;
  • Frequently disinfect slots, tables, high touch gaming equipment and table game equipment such as chips, cards, dice, counters, card terminals and the like;
  • Install hand sanitization stations at every entry point and throughout the casino floor;
  • Provide disinfectant wipes and trash receptacles throughout the casino floor;
  • Provide hand sanitizer to every arriving player and instruct him/her to immediately sanitize their hands at the table before providing them with chips;
  • Regularly disinfect all common equipment that is shared by multiple employees or guests per shift (such as table game equipment);
  • Staff a sufficient number of EVS Attendants to frequently clean and disinfect the slot machines and replenish the Hand Sanitization stations

Social Distancing

Under the agreement, the casinos are obligated to enforce social distancing:

  • Require customers to wear face coverings;
  • Install barriers at any work stations where employees interact directly with customers including at all tables, cages, and cashier stations;
  • Turn off/reconfigure slot machines and table games to ensure social distancing of at least six feet;
  • Limit the number of players allowed at each table in accordance with local gaming regulations and enforce social distancing, when possible by limiting the number of positions at each table. If that’s not possible, the casino must erect plexiglass barriers;
  • Prohibit customers from congregating behind players;
  • Post notices on how to avoid contracting and preventing the further spread of COVID-19;
  • Staff a sufficient number of Security/Peace Officers to ensure social distancing, handle crowd control, and monitor guest compliance with wearing masks;

Personal Protective Equipment

Casino management must provide the following personal protective equipment to employees covered by the agreement:

  • Appropriate face coverings;
  • Disposable gloves;
  • Hand sanitizer stations throughout the casino (including in back of the house areas);
  • EPA approved antimicrobial soap; and
  • Physical barriers at any work station where employees interact directly with the customers.

Employee Safety and Training

The agreement requires the casinos to conduct safety trainings for employees, as negotiated under the original March 2020 “Coronavirus Hotel Safety Protocol”:

  • All employees must be trained on how to identify symptoms of the coronavirus and what steps should be taken if they suspect that they have been exposed;
  • Housekeeping/EVS employees must be specifically trained on how to most effectively clean to eliminate the Coronavirus and on how to protect themselves from infection;
  • Employees must be trained on how to respond to guest inquiries about whether and where to seek treatment for Coronavirus-related illness or exposure; and
  • The Casino is required to create and emergency response plan to protect workers and guests in the event a guest seeks treatment for Coronavirus exposure.
  • The casino must designate one or more manager per shift to act as a COVID-19 Compliance Officer who will be responsible for tasks including enforcing the COVID-19 safety plan, addressing issues, and monitoring adherence to social distancing, symptom monitoring, disinfecting, and PPE training;

Additional protections for staff who handle cash

The casinos have agreed to implement additional protections for staff whose primary job requires them to handle cash including bankers, cashiers, and count room. Among the requirements are:

  • Provide employees with masks and gloves;
  • Clean the count room prior to every shift;
  • Adequately ventilate the space;

Additional Protections for Housekeeping Staff (this applies to casinos where there is a hotel attached):

The agreement mandates the following protections for housekeeping staff at the casinos:

  • Required daily room cleans of all stay-over and check-out rooms;
  • All cleaning products and disinfectants are to be approved by the EPA for use against the Coronavirus;
  • All bed linens and towels must be cleaned on a daily basis, without exception;
  • Hotels that are currently open must reduce the room quota by 25% to accommodate the additional time needed to sanitize guest rooms. Once this provision expires, the Union will still be able to challenge staffing levels and workloads and no employee can be laid off due to the change.
  • Management cannot assign employees to work in a guest room while it is occupied;
  • Management cannot assign employees to enter an occupied guest room for at least fifteen minutes after the guest has left the room;
  • The hotel must provide HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaners;
  • Vacuums are only to be used on rugs and carpets after that rug or carpet has been disinfected with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19;
  • The hotel must maintain vacuum cleaners regularly to minimize how much dust is being dispersed; and
  • The hotel must remove unnecessary amenities that are porous or otherwise difficult to clean from guest rooms, such as pens, pencils, decorative pillows, magazines, notepads, candy dishes.

Air recirculation and purification:

As part of the agreement, the casino also agrees to eliminate (or minimize) air recirculation and maximize air resupply and obtain and install adequate filtration systems/air purifiers.

II. Containing Outbreaks:

Guest Testing and Screening:

The casino must screen customer temperatures at all entry points.

Employee Testing and Screening:

The casinos have adopted the testing protocols established in the June 2020 agreement to identify infections early and make the casino take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the event an employee or customer gets sick. According to the testing protocol, casinos must do the following:

  • Conduct daily temperature checks for all employees;
  • Pay for COVID-19 testing and one day’s pay (at the benefit day rate) for employees who:
    • Have a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit;
    • Are required to get the test by the casino (for instance, if the casino requires employees to get tested before recalling employees to work); or
    • Have a reasonable belief that they have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past fourteen days at home or on the job.
    • If an employee was exposed on the job or has a fever above 100.4, the casino must provide up to 3 additional days of paid time off (at the benefit day rate) while the employee waits for test results; and
    • If an employee has a reasonable belief that they were exposed at home, the casino must provide up to 1 additional day of paid time off (at the benefit day rate) while the employee waits for test results.

This paid time off is in addition to any other paid time off that an employee otherwise has, including sick, vacation, personal days and accelerated holidays under the contract and safety agreement and any paid time off under the law (such as paid time off to quarantine).

III. Providing Additional Paid Time Off:

Paid Time Off for those who Test Positive for COVID-19:

Any employee who is recalled to work or working is eligible for up to 20 days of paid time off (at their benefit day rate) if they are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.

Additional Options to take Paid Time Off:

In the March 2020 “Coronavirus Safety Protocol”, the Union negotiated enhanced rights for employees to use paid and unpaid time off to stay home. These rights are further extended as follows:

  • Employees are permitted to use any of their accrued and unused paid sick, vacation, and personal days if they fear exposure to COVID-19 as a result of having to work, commuting to work, or being unable to work because of childcare obligations or obligations to take care of an elderly family member;
  • Employees are permitted to use all of the paid holidays remaining in 2020; and
  • Employees are permitted to take unlimited unpaid-time off for the same reasons.

IV. No Retaliation or Discrimination

No employee can be retaliated against or discriminated against for reporting a violation of these guidelines or the reopening plan.