Last month's massive recall of ice cream due to Listeria contamination has prompted the Blue Bell to make what CEO and President Paul Kruse called “the agonizing decision” to cut the size of its work force and take other cost-cutting measures.
The company says the need to reduce its workforce, furlough some workers and cut salaries is “due to the extended timeline required to ensure the highest quality and safety of Blue Bell’s products when the company resumes production." The company adds that supply and distribution will be limited for some time to come.
An “agonizing decision”
“The agonizing decision to lay off hundreds of our great workers and reduce hours and pay for others was the most difficult one I have had to make in my time as Blue Bell’s CEO and President,” Kruse said. While saying Blue bell “did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible, “ Kruse added, “we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future.”
Blue Bell says the process of cleaning and improving its 4 production plants is going to take longer than the company initially anticipated, especially at the main plant where major repairs and equipment replacements are expected. There is no firm timeline for when Blue Bell will begin producing ice cream again. When production resumes, it will be limited and phased in over time.
The employee actions affect three groups:
- Those who are essential to ongoing operations and cleaning and repair efforts will continue to work but have their pay reduced.
- A second group of employees will be placed on partially paid furlough. They will be paid a substantial portion of their current pay, with the expectation that they will return to work as production resumes.
- Because there is not a clear timeline for when production will resume, and because supply and distribution will be limited when it does, a third group of employees will be laid off.
Approximately 1,400 employees will be furloughed, and approximately 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees -- or 37% of the total Blue Bell workforce of 3,900 -- will be laid off.
Blue Bell is also suspending operations and laying off employees at the following distribution centers:
- Phoenix (2 branches) and Tucson, Arizona;
- Denver, Colorado;
- Indianapolis, Indiana;
- Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas;
- Louisville, Kentucky;
- Albuquerque, New Mexico;
- Las Vegas, Nevada;
- Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina;
- Columbia, South Carolina; and
- Richmond, Virginia.
Blue Bell says its executives will be contacting area chambers of commerce to ask for their help for employees who have been laid off. Business owners who may have jobs available are asked to contact Blue Bell at 979-830-9831 or at email@example.com.