Workers who operate the Mount Vernon Express fear their jobs are in jeopardy as the University switches to a new transportation provider.
Officials announced last month that this summer a new transportation vendor will replace International Limousine Service – the company that operates shuttles between the Foggy Bottom and the Mount Vernon and Virginia Science and Technology campuses. Officials said the dozens of shuttle employees at GW will move on to other positions within the company, but workers said they haven’t heard any communication from supervisors about the status of their jobs.
In interviews, eight current International Limousine Service employees – who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak to the media – said top officials at the company have not told them whether they will be terminated or assigned a different route when the new shuttle service takes over.
Representatives from the new transportation service, RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, and International Limousine Service both declined to comment.
“Without the contract, where are they going to go or how many hours will they be able to clock in a week to feed their families and ensure that their needs are taken care of?”
One current Vex supervisor said it is unclear whether any of the employees will be able to keep their jobs once the company’s contract expires. They said they’re mainly concerned with whether the people who drive and supervise the company will be able to maintain their livelihoods because most are not financially prepared to take an extended leave from work.
“Without the contract, where are they going to go or how many hours will they be able to clock in a week to feed their families and ensure that their needs are taken care of?” the supervisor said.
Officials said last month that International Limousine Service will work with RMA, which will provide new hybrid shuttles equipped with WiFi, to ensure an easy transition between the companies. But the Vex supervisor said none of the employees have met anyone from RMA and no one has formally communicated with them about how the changes will affect their employment status.
Employees said they only found out the contract was ending through informal office discussions or a flyer describing the change posted in their lunch room.
The supervisor, who has worked for the company for less than a year, said they would consider applying to work for RMA if their employment with International Limousine Service is terminated because everyone needs to think about “their own family and finances.”
“Ideally, everyone would have a large savings account of their own and they’re prepared for things that may come along such as this, but in reality that’s not how life works,” the supervisor said.
Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president for operations, said International Limousine Service has indicated that all the employees currently serving at GW “will move on to other opportunities within the company.” She said no GW staff positions will be affected by the change because all Vex workers are employed by International Limousine Service.
RMA will identify its staffing needs and determine whether it will hire new staff members during its transition period, she said.
“The University is already at work with both vendors on the upcoming transition, and all parties are committed to ensuring the change is seamless and does not impact GW’s shuttle riders,” Knight said in an email.
She declined to say whether Vex employees had expressed concerns to officials about the status of their jobs and said details of the contract with RMA are not publicly available.
Employees for GW services have worried about staff cuts after outside contracts have expired in the past. As many as 15 Sodexo employees were let go during the transition to a new dining provider in 2016.
“I’m just waiting until I hear something from my supervisor and find out what’s going on.”
A Vex driver said he was told about the contract ending by a colleague four days after the University’s announcement March 29. The driver, who has worked at GW for six years, said he didn’t expect the contract to end because there were no warning signs or communications with employees that the agreement was in jeopardy.
He said he doesn’t intend to leave the company once the contract expires because he will likely work at another site, but his supervisor hasn’t told him whether that is even a possibility. The company has other service locations in the District and provides transportation to airports, weddings and special occasions, according to International Limousine Service’s website.
“I’m just waiting until I hear something from my supervisor and find out what’s going on,” he said. “Maybe they’ll have different routes for me or other locations, but I don’t know about GW now.”
Another driver, who has worked for International Limousine Service for three years, said it’s unclear how the transition will affect his job status, as company officials have refused to discuss the changes, despite being asked by employees multiple times.
“I don’t know because when I was just chatting with folks at the office, they said, ‘We don’t know. We’ll see what happens then,’” he said.