Twin River, dealers at odds over policy to limit sick calls amid pandemic

Business News

LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) – The system Twin River Casino management is using to ensure employees are showing up for work amid the coronavirus pandemic is raising the ire of some workers.

About a week after state officials allowed Twin River to reopen to the public in late June, a memo went out to table game dealers saying in part, “We must meet the expectations of our guests and a 25% call out rate is creating a condition that makes it impossible.”

In response, casino leaders said they were once again enacting a points-based system for tracking absenteeism, where table game employees receive two points for every day they call out. If an employee racks up 10 points, they could be fired.

Multiple dealers — who spoke with WPRI 12 on the condition of anonymity, citing concern about losing their jobs — said the system is putting pressure on employees to come to work even when they or a relative may be sick.

“If you had a doctor’s note you would be covered, but anything else with yourself or your spouse or your children, it would be extremely difficult, and you would definitely be in jeopardy of losing your job at a fast pace,” explained one table game dealer from the Lincoln location.

Michael Sabitoni, the business manager for the union that represents the Twin River dealers, said the points system is allowed under the employees’ contract.

“It is the top priority of the leadership of  laborers Local Union 711 and 271, to ensure that its members return to a safe and clean casino,” Sabitoni said in a statement. “Prior to re-opening, Twin River and the Laborers Union walked through both the Lincoln and Tiverton properties. Twin River management went into great detail about their reopening plan and the many safeguards they would be implementing to keep our members, other staff and all patrons safe.”

“Our field representatives along with our stewards, work daily with different casino management to work out any issues that may come up,” he continued. “Twin River management and the union share the common goal of working hard to make certain that all who enter the building are kept safe.”

Twin River spokesperson Patti Doyle said management is being flexible with employees and would have a discussion with the union to review the circumstances before termination if a dealer reaches 10 points. She also said for each month that goes by without calling out, an employee has a point deducted.

“The management team at Twin River also remains committed to working with all of our employees, union and non-union, to respond to any concerns they may have about the workplace during these challenging times,” Doyle told WPRI 12 in an email. “We work cooperatively to accommodate scheduling requests and to monitor and modify any of our safety protocols, as necessary. Lines of communications with our dealers, their stewards and union leadership are always open.”

Some of the dealers that spoke with WPRI 12 said they don’t feel safe at work, and worry that they or their patrons are going to get sick. When asked if the conditions at the casinos were safe for staff and patrons, one dealer said, “Absolutely not.”

Twin River disagrees.

“It really can’t be said often enough that the health and safety of our guests and team members is our priority,” Doyle said. “For that reason, we have developed in close coordination with our regulators a strict set of guidelines that must be adhered to when visiting our properties.  They include 6-foot social distancing, temperature checks upon arrival, the wearing of masks at all times, and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting throughout the casino. More recently, when we reopened table games, we installed plexiglass dividers between players, and between players and dealers.”

A spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Health said inspectors had visited both the Lincoln and Tiverton casinos to inspect the restaurants and dividers at the table games, finding no issues. He said inspectors would return again in the future for a more comprehensive inspection of the casinos.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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