Cablevision Cuts Staff at Phone UnitCablevision Cuts Staff a

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By Harry Berkowitz
STAFF WRITER

January 16, 2004


Cablevision Systems Corp. has laid off dozens of employees this week, including nearly 15 percent of the staff at its Lightpath commercial telephone service, workers familiar with the cuts said yesterday.

The workers said Lightpath, which provides high-speed Internet access and telephone service to businesses and institutions, was the hardest-hit division of Cablevision, losing 71 of its roughly 500 employees, including some supervisors, engineers, phone system installers and sales assistants.

The overall cutbacks appear to be the biggest since Cablevision slashed 3,000 jobs in 2002 as part of a restructuring that also included shutting The Wiz retail electronics chain. At that time, Cablevision said it would scale back Lightpath's expansion plans, eliminating New Jersey from its coverage area, which includes Long Island, New York City, Westchester and southern Connecticut.

Senior executives at Lightpath, based in Jericho, met with employees yesterday morning and told them the cuts are meant to create a leaner division, according to workers who attended the meetings.

In the third quarter of 2003, Lightpath had an operating loss of nearly $1 million, as administrative costs and sales and marketing expenses outpaced revenue growth. A year earlier, Lightpath, which is headed by former New York City Deputy Mayor Joseph Lhota, posted a quarterly profit of $1.4 million. The number of high-speed Internet customers jumped 67 percent during that year to 23,200 as of Sept. 30 at Lightpath, which has become the third biggest local phone service provider in New York State.

"Lightpath is consolidating certain operations, resulting in a reduction of staff," Lightpath spokeswoman Kim Kerns said. "While these decisions are always difficult, the changes will ensure that the company is able to continue to efficiently and effectively" deliver services. Cablevision's stock price rose by 23 cents per share to $26.48 yesterday.

Rick Fridell, a coordinator at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which is involved in an effort to organize workers at Cablevision, said phone system installers who were laid off at Lightpath should be offered jobs at Optimum Voice, the new residential phone service at Cablevision.

The job cuts come at a time when Cablevision, which has the most subscribers of any cable-television service provider in the New York metro area, is under pressure to begin generating steady profits for the first time in its
 
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