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Buffet workers at Resorts World racino in Queens, New York were stunned last week to learn that they had been let go.
According to the New York Daily News, 175 workers were laid off on January 5. Officials at the resort on the site of Aqueduct Racetrack said they had no choice but to shutter the buffet because it was losing money. A Queens lawmaker isn’t buying it, and says the problem was inflated prices.
“We always looked at Resorts World as a job generator and not a job killer,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “I saw the price of the buffet go up to $40 a plate. No one is going to pay $40 for a buffet.”
“They just messed up our lives,” said former employee Antonio Rodriguez, who worked as a server. “It’s a very difficult economy to find a job. We just joined a union a couple of months ago and had all these expectations.”
Some workers say they were pushed out because of the union. As members of the Hotel Trades Council, they received a pay boost in October; the average salary for buffet workers before the firings was $40,000.
“We got our contract and prices started going up,” said buffet chef Josephine DiPierro. “They should have given me a job in a different spot. You have customers that become your friends and look for you.”
A Resorts World spokeswoman said the union contract was not responsible for the layoffs, and added that the venue has never been profitable. “If we allowed it to continue, it would have impacted our ability to sustain all of the benefits the casino has provided the community over the past two years,” said Keri Lyon, adding that the Genting facility created 1,600 jobs and sends $1 billion dollars in annual revenues to public schools in the state.
The union reported that the laid-off workers will each receive between one and five weeks of severance pay along with a package that includes unused sick and vacation days for 2013 and 2014 and 120 days of family medical coverage, the News reported.
“The casino assures the union that they will give opportunities to the laid-off workers to apply for any open positions,” said council spokesman John Turchiano. “The union will closely monitor this.”
Those assurances did not calm line cook Felix Gonzales, who told NY1.com that when the union came in and negotiated for better pay, “Everybody was content. Now they want to change the prices, change a lot of things around. For what reason, I have no idea.”
“We’ve all been dedicated. We’ve given our all to this place from Day 1,” said Kevin Briggs, another line cook. “You finally feel secure in a position, and they just pull the rug out from under you.”