Market Basket cuts hours for up to 8,000 workers
Those cuts included a married couple in their late 70s — she bags groceries at the checkout and he collects the carts in the parking lot at the Plaistow store. Each averages 28 hours a week to help pay the mortgage.
Some employees had to leave work before completing their shifts. Tears were reported in many store aisles.
Gov. Maggie Hassan estimated close to 8,000 people work part-time at Market Basket. The grocery store is one of the state’s largest private employers, rivaled only by Wal-Mart.
The state’s busiest store by volume, at 265 South Broadway in Salem, will cut all hours for 520 part-time workers. The Nashua store on D.W. Highway will idle 500 part-timers. Others include 470 in Londonderry, 297 in Hooksett and about 400 combined at the two Concord stores.
“All store directors are to let their associates know that they are not laid off,” Thornton said in a statement. “All store directors as part of their normal responsibilities are able to and often do reduce hours, but they need to make clear when doing so that the individuals are still employees of DSM.”
“How you can not schedule 200 people for however long it takes and not be laid off?” said Tilton Store Director Mike LeClair. “It’s just a matter of language. If you don’t get any hours, technically you’re being laid off. No matter what the vernacular you use, it’s the same thing.”
“If you know anyone at the unemployment office, they better put on a second shift,” Paulenka said.
Crying in the aisles
Epping Store Director Cindy Whelan said she “broke down in tears” when she told her staff, meaning no hours for 350 to 375 part-timers. And she said store directors can’t balance the payroll enough even with the cut in part-timers to meet the directive.
“People were crying. They just couldn’t believe what’s happening to them,” said Gulezian, who has been with Market Basket 31 years. “In the history of our company, we’ve never had to do this.”
“I guess my next step is to lay off my full-time workers and managers,” he said. “That could come the following week.”
Several workers were picketing along Manchester’s Elm Street.
“It stinks for us,” said Melissa Noel, who has worked at Market Basket for six months. She makes $8 an hour and usually got 20 to 25 hours a week. She said her husband is disabled: His paycheck covers rent and the car payment. Her check is supposed to provide food and pay other bills. She expects her initial unemployment claim will be denied, and she will have to appeal, a process that could take four to six weeks.
Paulenka said he can’t understand how the company management could conduct a three-day job fair this week after sending out a directive to store directors on Aug. 1 telling them their staffing needs to be better aligned with their store sales.
Union Leader Staff Writers Mark Hayward and Dan Tuohy and Correspondents Kimberly Houghton, Meghan Pierce, April Guilmet and Cassidy Swanson contributed to this report.