GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - More workers lost their jobs Friday at the Seaview Resort & Spa as new managers try to meet performance targets set by property owners amid a recession that has decimated the hospitality industry, particularly resorts such as the 95-year-old landmark in the Smithville section of Galloway Township.
The round of layoffs is the second since Dolce Hotels and Resorts took over the hotel and conference center. Meanwhile, nearly all remaining hourly employees have seen their work weeks whittled.
The winter lull that halves occupancy rates and available work also prompted the layoffs. Managers and other full-time hourly employees worked their final days Friday, General Manager Hans Mulders said.
"You don't need as many people to service guests when you're at that occupancy load," he said. "It's an unfortunate necessity of a seasonal business."
Mulders would not give an exact number of how many workers lost their positions but said it totaled fewer than 10. The resort let go 15 full-time workers during the summer. On top of that, management has taken part-time workers off the schedule. They were the first cut from the work force, which had dropped by 50 to 300 employees in the five months since Dolce arrived in May. At the time, Mulders said, he did not anticipate firing workers. The layoffs started two months later.
Evesham Township, Burlington County-based Dolce took over for Marriott International after the corporation - which continues to run a village of timeshare condominiums adjacent to the resort - failed to meet performance objectives spelled out in its contract with owner LaSalle Hotel Properties. Troon Golf took over the golf courses there at the same time
The layoffs have not included the 75 food and beverage workers who belong to Local 54 of UNITE-HERE, according to Terry McCabe, the union's director of negotiations.
Their contract expired Oct. 1. McCabe said Friday she expected to resume talks with Dolce managers Tuesday.
"Everyone's interested in wrapping this up and moving this forward in a very positive way," Mulders said of the negotiations.
In the midst of ratifying contracts with six casino properties Friday, when the union also closed its offices due to the storm, McCabe and union president Bob McDevitt were unable to comment further.
Cuts also have not yet affected the housekeeping staff, Mulders said.
LaSalle has targeted that department as a focus for cost-savings initiatives elsewhere in its portfolio. It also has consistently identified Seaview as among its weakest-performing properties, according to shareholder conference calls.
"We all understand economic realities of today," he said. "This is an extraordinary time in our industry, and ... when you break it down, the resorts have taken a really tremendous hit this year, unlike anything I've ever seen in my 30 years in this business."
The Seaview also has scaled back hours for its bars and restaurants while advanced bookings stay low. Mulders said he is cautiously optimistic that the property will rebound next year.
The hotel expects to fill three-quarters of its rooms this weekend and has many reservations booked for Thanksgiving dinner. After that, business looks like it will slow down until after the New Year, Mulders said.
The hotel will offer a slew of holiday events in hopes of drumming up customers. Traditional Breakfast with Santa and High Tea offerings will continue, and management will bring back the Gingerbread Village in the front lobby of the hotel that former bosses scrapped last year.
Mulders also said he will launch a Jingle Ball aimed to attract smaller companies that may not have enough employees to throw their own holiday soiree.
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