Saturday, October 18, 2008

NYRA Cuts Purses, Axes Employees

As a TBA colleague  has already already pointed out, NYRA has announced major purse cuts for the upcoming Aqueduct winter meet, which opens October 29th.

Apparently in response to the sharp drop-off in handle in recent months – Saratoga was down 10.6% from 2007, and the Belmont fall meet is down 10% so far – NYRA is cutting purses back to their January 2007 levels.  That means open-company maidens will drop from $48,000 to $43,000, and N1X allowances from $50,000 to $45,000.  New York-bred races in the same categories will pay $2,000 less than the open-company events.

In addition, NYRA has announced that it will lay off 42 low-level employees when the Belmont meet ends.  The folks who will lose their jobs – none of whom is named Charlie Hayward – include 19 seating attendants (“whitecaps” in NYRA parlance), 16 parking attendants, five admission clerks and two program sellers. 

OK, I understand that business is down, and I’m willing, as a horse owner, to take my share of the hit through lower purses, even though the cost of keep a horse in New York keeps going up.  And I understand that, with free admission and free parking at Aqueduct, not to mention the anticipated lower attendance, some jobs may become redundant.

But did anyone in NYRA think that maybe some management staff should be let go as well? Or how about a 10% across-the-board cut in top-level management salaries?  Or even, if NYRA insists that some of the costs be borne by those workers least able to afford them, how about talking with NYRA’s various unions about a temporary wage rollback that would allow everyone at least to keep their jobs? That’s a tactic that’s been used with some success in the auto and airline industries when they fell on hard times.

Sure, some of the parking attendants, whitecaps and program sellers also have jobs on the backstretch in the morning – probably paying all of $350-$400 a week. They need those afternoon jobs with NYRA just to get by. These hard-working people, many of whom I’ve known for years, deserve better than this.

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