Foxwoods to end shuttle service for many workers starting May 1

Foxwoods Resort Casino employees who rely on shuttle buses to get to and from their jobs are none too happy about having to make other arrangements.

Casino management informed employees last week that starting May 1 it will discontinue shuttle service from Foxwoods' Midway Lot on Industrial Drive in Groton and during the week from Route 2 commuter lots adjacent to Interstate 95 in North Stonington and west of Route 78 in Stonington.

Foxwoods says it will help employees deal with the changes by setting up meetings on alternative transportation and by allowing employees who start driving to work to park in the casino's Great Cedar Garage and in the MGM Grand at Foxwoods lot.

Peter Pan buses have long operated around the clock between the casinos and lots in Groton, North Stonington, Norwich and Stonington. Service to the lot on Route 2 in Norwich will continue.

UAW at Foxwoods, the union representing 2,500 table-games dealers at the casinos, has filed a grievance over the shuttle-service changes, suggesting the union's contract addresses transportation for employees.

Neither the union nor Foxwoods would comment on the grievance Monday.

In a memo dated March 15, Michael Speller, president of the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, the tribal entity that operates the casinos, attributes the cutbacks to economic conditions.

"Due to the pressure on our business over the last 18 months our employee levels are back to pre-MGM levels and in order to keep our business costs under control we must take certain measures to help preserve jobs and remain competitive in this environment," Speller says in the memo, which is posted at the lots in four languages.

MGM Grand opened in May 2008.

A Foxwoods employee waiting for a bus Monday morning at the North Stonington lot said employees were "disgusted" with the reduction in service. The employee, who declined to give his name, said many commuters would face a serious hardship.

The Groton lot, which Foxwoods owns, is located in the Poquonnock Bridge section of town adjacent to an Amtrak maintenance facility. Two Foxwoods employees waiting at the lot Monday said many of the employees who take the shuttle do not have cars. One of the employees - both declined to give a name - said he adjusted his schedule so he could take a SEAT bus to the shuttle lot.

"We work 24/7, all different kinds of shifts," the employee said. "We need this. Other forms of public transportation are too expensive. You know what a cab costs?"

The employees said the shuttle buses used to run every 15 minutes but now stop at the lot every 45 minutes.

According to Speller's memo, shuttle service from the North Stonington and Stonington lots will continue on weekends, operating from 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday. Employees may continue to park in all of the lots and car-pool from them.

Employees with at least 10 years of service at Foxwoods can apply for parking passes that will enable them to park at any time in Foxwoods' Great Cedar Garage. Those with less seniority and vendors will be able to park in the Great Cedar Garage during the week and in the MGM lot, which is about a mile from the casino on Route 2, from 10 a.m. Friday until 10 p.m. Sunday.

According to the memo, Foxwoods' human resources will be arranging meetings between the affected employees and "representatives from alternative transportation options such as East Street (a commuter van service) and other car-pooling options ..."

Peter Pan Bus Lines, based in Springfield, Mass., has provided buses and drivers for the Foxwoods shuttles since the inception of the service in the early 1990s, according to Joanne Berwald, the company's senior director of human resources.

"We don't have the full details yet, so we don't know how it's going to impact our employees," Berwald said of the cutbacks in service. "The good news is that in many instances, we may be able to find the affected drivers other employment within the organization. We have a fairly robust charter service in Connecticut and we could transfer them to the charter side."


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