Business way off, CT Limo tries to keep hanging on

Seven months after the disaster that stripped it of much of its business, Connecticut Limo remains at an impasse.

After weathering a 10-month-long drivers’ strike and laying off two-thirds of its employees, Connecticut Limo is still afloat — but barely — after experiencing a sharp downturn in passenger volume following the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We’re still here,” Director of Operations Mike Booker said. “We’re pretty happy about that.”

Following the terrorist attacks and the resulting decline in air travel, Connecticut Limo was hit with a 40 percent drop in passengers, and the company failed to turn a profit for months. In response, the company laid off 300 of its 500 workers last winter, went from 300 drivers to 100, and redesigned its routes to cut costs.

Booker said Yale students are still using the service to get to and from area airports, but the number of other customers has dropped.

Although the company’s predicament is not as “dire” as before, he added, Connecticut Limo must continue to monitor its bottom line carefully.

“I still don’t see any real clamor to get on a plane,” he said. “We keep trying to find ways to run a better business.”

The drivers’ strike began last spring when contract negotiations with locals 145 and 443 stopped abruptly after Connecticut Limo said it would no longer recognize the driver unions. Booker said in January that the company had received a petition from a majority of its drivers stating that they no longer wished to be represented by the unions.

After negotiations broke down, the unions filed an unfair labor practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board. And earlier this year, the NLRB ruled that Connecticut Limo had to recognize the union, effectively ending the strike. The company and the drivers are now back in negotiations.

Brian Ellis, a driver for Connecticut Limo, joined the union strike when it began last May, but he is still waiting for the company to call him back to work. He said drivers are returning according to seniority; Ellis has been a driver for Connecticut Limo for two years.

Though the strike is over, Ellis said he is unsure whether Connecticut Limo will call him back to work. In the meantime, he said he is picking up odd jobs to stay afloat.

“I think the company handled it lousy,” Ellis said. “All it had to do was acknowledge the fact of the union.”

A part-time driver, Ellis said a central issue of contention with the company is the lack of benefits offered to part-time, as opposed to full-time, workers.

Connecticut Limo provides transportation to and from Bradley, Newark, John F. Kennedy and La Guardia airports.

“We’re going to stay as lean and mean as we can so we can continue to exist,” Booker said.

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