Blue Bell to Cut 1,400, or 37 Percent, of Workforce

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(NBC 5 News) Blue Bell Creameries says they’ll be laying off a third of their workforce due to the extended timeline to return to production after a listeria outbreak forced the company to recall all products and close its plants.

“Due to the extended timeline required to ensure the highest quality and safety of Blue Bell’s products when the company resumes production, and because supply and distribution will be limited for some time to come,” Blue Bell Creameries CEO and President Paul Kruse said in a news release Friday.

Kruse announced, “‘the agonizing decision’ that the company will have to reduce the size of its work force by more than a third and will make other cost-cutting measures, including furloughs and salary reductions,” the company said in a statement Friday.

Approximately 1,400 employees will be furloughed, and approximately 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees – or 37 percent of the total Blue Bell workforce of 3,900 – will be laid off, Kruse said.

“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. “At Blue Bell, our employees are part of our family, and we did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible. At the same time, we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future. This is a sad day for all of us at Blue Bell, and for me personally.”
Kruse said employees that are essential to ongoing operations, cleaning and repair will continue to work at a reduced pay.

A second group will be placed on partially paid furlough with the expectation being that they’ll return to work when production resumes. A third group will be laid off, because there is not a clear timeline for when production will resume.

The company said the process of cleaning and preparing their four plants to resume production is going to take longer than anticipated, especially in Brenham.

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 company said.

Blue Bell also made the difficult decision to suspend operations and lay 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.


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