A few hours after the media reported that Market Basket would lay off many of its employees, the store CEOs released a statement that they had never intended to fire any part-time associates.
“Store Directors were not instructed to lay off associates, but to adjust hours to meet current demand,” a company spokesman said Thursday afternoon. “It is our hope that we will be back to normal business levels in the not too distant future and all associates will be back to a full schedule.”
Many Market Basket store managers had told part time employees that morning that they would no longer be scheduled for shifts during the upcoming weeks.
The company implied that the scaled back hours were simply normal adjustments made to accommodate current demand. Market Basket stores have remained almost devoid of customers over the last few weeks as protests and boycotts continue.
CEO Felicia Thornton also instructed store directors to inform any associates that they still had jobs at the embattled supermarket chain.
“Store Directors as part of their normal responsibilities are able to and often do reduce hours,” she said. “But they need to make clear when doing so that the individuals are still employees of DSM.”
The statements by Market Basket board came on the heels of widespread panic from disgruntled employees who interpreted the scaled back hours as layoffs.
The Sentinel & Enterprise were the first to report that part time employees would likely see their hours “drastically decline” starting this weekend.
The “Save Market Basket” page subsequently urged employees to reach out to unemployment offices, as well as the Attorney General.
After receiving more than 100 calls over the last 24 hours, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley established a hotline specifically for Market Basket employees. She asked that all employees reach her office’s Fair Labor Division at 617-963-2400.
As word of the purported layoffs spread Thursday morning, some workers began to panic.
Katherine Keane, who has worked at Market Basket as a part-time employee for about a year and a half, told Boston.com she called her manager today to confirm the news and was told that all part-time employees were no longer being scheduled for shifts. Her manager blamed the low number of customers for the change.
Keane noted that the layoffs, as she called them, may not be permanent.
“My managers have a lot of hope that this can’t go on much longer and we will be able to come back,” Keane wrote in a direct message to Boston.com Thursday morning. “The amount of time we will be laid off is dependent on the board’s decision to reinstate Arthur T.”
Tom Kuver heard the news from an assistant manager at the supermarket chain.
“She told me this morning that all part-time workers, including myself and my sister, have been laid off,” he wrote in a direct message.
The news that Market Basket would reduce the hours of some of its part-time employees has left some bystanders upset. One full time associate, Meg Kulis, said that she is angry and heartbroken about the development.
“Many of these kids, it’s their first job,” she told Boston.com. “It’s so hard to find well paying jobs these days.”
Kulis also wrote in an email that her store, Hooksett 66, had “a table set up out front with information regarding unemployment” and contact information for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office Thursday morning.
Twitter users, some who appeared to be affiliated with the store, also shared the news on Thursday, including one tweet featuring an image that appeared to show an employee holding a sign that said he had been laid off.