Austrian union slams Casino Austria restructuring plan

10 July 2020

Austria’s Union of Private Sector Employees, Printing, Journalism, and Paper (GPA-djp) has attacked the ambitious restructuring plan agreed by Casinos Austria earlier this week, saying that the state oversight of the business has failed.

This plan, described as the largest reorganisation in Casinos Austria’s history by chief executive Bettina Glatz-Kremsner, aims to reduce personnel and material costs by more than €40m (£35.8m/$45.2m), and restructure its operations and headquarters teams.

While management has claimed that ReFIT will preserve 1,200 jobs across the business, it will also result in a number of redundancies. Austrian newspaper Kurier estimates that 500 jobs will be lost across the business.

GPA-djp national director Karl Dürtscher attacked ReFIT, claiming it was “certainly not in the best interest of the state and taxpayers”.

He said the state “should do everything possible” to protect jobs at a time of great economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19, especially as it is a co-owner of the business through state investment arm Österreichische Beteiligungs (ÖBAG).

Ultimately he described the plan as showing the Austrian state’s policy towards Casinos Austria demonstrated “a clear failure of leadership”, accusing it of watching idly by as cuts were made at employees and taxpayers’ expense.

He said that serious discussions on a plan forward involving Casinos Austria employees would have been able to come up with alternatives that could have been equally successful in securing the business’ future.

“Austria’s casino model is not one solely designed to maximise profits at all costs,” Dürtscher continued. “It is not just about high-quality jobs at the casinos themselves, but about creating an economic value chain that is of great importance for certain sectors, such as tourism.

“We will now support the casino works council to moderate the package and find reasonable solutions [that will not result in] 500 employees losing their jobs,” he added. “We urge the board to be flexible in reaching a solution, something that has been possible under previous regimes.”

The ReFIT plan was approved by the operator's supervisory board earlier this week. Glatz-Kremsner explained that the business had been badly disrupted by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which shut the casinos between 16 March and 29 May. This came at a time when it was already undergoing significant changes as a result of Austria’s smoking ban, she said.