Union makes counteroffer to seek savings to keep Trump Taj Mahal casino open

Associated Press

The main casino workers' union in Atlantic City has made a counteroffer to the owners of the Trump Taj Mahal casino, proposing reduced pension contributions.

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Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union responded in a court filing on Tuesday to Trump Entertainment Resorts' demand that workers give up their entire pension and health care coverage as part of a complex plan to keep the casino open. Trump Entertainment plans to shut the Taj Mahal on Nov. 13 if it doesn't get concessions from the union and massive tax breaks from Atlantic City, and the county and state governments.

Atlantic City has already rejected that demand.

The company's proposed reorganization hinges on its lender, billionaire Carl Icahn, pumping $100 million in new money into the casino, which he would then own. Trump Entertainment wants a bankruptcy court judge in Delaware to let it terminate its union contract, a hearing is scheduled in Delaware for Oct. 14.

Both sides will meet on Friday for a negotiating session.

Robert Griffin, Trump Entertainment's CEO, would not comment directly on the union's new offer, but said the company "will remain committed to negotiating in good faith. We hope to make the most of the three hours we will be meeting for on Friday."

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In its response to the judge, the union accused Trump Entertainment of negotiating in bad faith by adopting a take-it-or-leave-it stance on the required concessions from the union and governments.

The union also wants whoever acquires Trump Entertainment — most likely Icahn — to be bound by its union contract.

Four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos have closed this year; the Taj Mahal would be the fifth.

Icahn has said he would consider putting $100 million into the Taj Mahal, but only if all the preconditions were met, including union givebacks, a drastic lessening of the tax assessments of the Taj Mahal and the now-shuttered Trump Plaza casino, and $25 million in tax credits from a state redevelopment agency.

The company must soon decide whether to close the Taj Mahal; it would need time to file a formal request with New Jersey casino regulators to close the casino by its Nov. 13 deadline — something it has not yet done.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC