The Greenbrier Resort said it is furloughing nearly half its 1,350 employees, as it struggles to fill its 720 rooms in a poor economy. According to the Associated Press, only about 100 of the White Sulphur Springs (W.Va.) landmark’s rooms are occupied presently, spokeswoman Lynn Swann said. The 650 workers who will lose their jobs could be rehired if business improves this spring, she added.
The furloughs come after resort owner CSX Corp. announced it had hired Goldman, Sachs & Co. to determine what to do with the luxury resort, which lost $35 million last year due to cancellations and a nearly year-long labor dispute.
Winter furloughs are not unusual for The Greenbrier, and most of the employees should be rehired this spring, union leader Peter Bostic said. “This company has historically laid off 400 to 500 people every winter for 30 or 40 years,” Bostic said. “Just because that number’s going up by 20% or so, I don’t see that as any reason to panic.”
The Greenbrier has been in negotiations with nine unions for more than 14 months, the talks bogging down on issues including health insurance and the benefits enjoyed by part-time workers. After the union authorized a strike in an April vote, the resort said cancellations and a fall-off in business ensued.
Frustrated by the lack of progress in negotiations, the union promoted a referendum that would allow casino-style gambling at the resort, in a bid to bring in new revenue and increase attendance. Voters narrowly approved the measure in November, but the resort has made no public effort to implement gambling so far, though it has hired a consulting firm to study the potential.
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