Foxwoods casino vows better communication

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MASHANTUCKET, Conn. (AP) — Foxwoods Resort Casino is promising to improve communications with its employees after nearly 400 workers called in sick over the busy New Year’s holiday to protest benefit cuts and other issues.

The 392 employees who called in sick was about double the typical number who would call in sick, according to Foxwoods spokesman Bruce MacDonald. The absences did not affect the casino’s operations, he said.

“We were fully staffed because we had overstaffed for the occasion,” MacDonald said Tuesday. “There were people sent home because we were overstaffed.”

Foxwoods recently created a vice president in charge of internal communications to step up its efforts to meet with employees, explain policies and understand their concerns, MacDonald said.

Foxwoods, which bills itself the world’s largest casino, has more than 10,000 employees and is run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. The New Year’s holiday is the busiest time of the year for casinos, with about 50,000 visitors.

Calls for a New Year’s sickout began last month on Madatfoxwoods.com, an anonymous Web site that cited recent benefit cuts and other workplace complaints.

The Web site says a family medical insurance deductible was raised last year, and that summer picnics and Christmas gifts were canceled and bonuses will be cut next year. Raises do not come close to meeting the cost of living, the site says.

A rival Web site, Gladatfoxwoods.com, says benefits are still good and defends raises of 3.5 percent annually.

Foxwoods officials say turnover at Foxwoods is about 20 percent annually, considerably lower than the industry average in the mid to high 30s.

Foxwoods executives say the casino offers one of the most generous benefits packages in the gaming industry and has offered concessions, including extending by six months the amount of time employees have to use vacation time.

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