EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — Shaw's Supermarkets here last week said it would trim its store-level staffing by about 4% in an effort to cut costs and increase efficiency.
The layoffs, effective April 10, will include full-time positions and will vary by store and by department, Judy Chong, a spokeswoman for Shaw's, told SN. Some stores will not see any cuts at all.
Chong declined to comment on whether there might be additional cuts at the chain's headquarters here in the wake of the store-level cuts and the pending sale of the chain's 18 stores in Connecticut, scheduled to close by early next month. The company operates 176 stores in five states.
In a separate action, the chain, a division of Minneapolis-based Supervalu, also said it has informed the union representing striking workers at its distribution center in Methuen, Mass., that it has “started the process of recruiting and hiring permanent replacement workers” at the facility.
“We have an obligation to protect our business and the livelihoods of our other 25,000 associates in New England,” Chong told SN.
The employees, members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791, launched a strike against the center March 7 after rejecting a contract offer from the chain.
“Instead of returning to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract that provides decent wages and benefits, the company has taken this dispute to a new level by their intention of hiring permanent replacement workers,” said Peter Derouen, a spokesman for the local.
The union is concerned about increases in the contributions employees would be asked to make for health care coverage, Derouen said. According to local reports, the union plans to escalate its protests over the dispute — it has been picketing at 16 Shaw's locations — to more Supervalu-owned stores around the country.
Chong said Shaw's latest contract offer included hourly raises of an average of 4.2% over the course of the four-year pact, plus bonuses. The average hourly salary for workers at the distribution center is $19.06, she said.
In addition, the company would also increase its contribution to health care coverage for workers by up to 19%, she said. Workers would also see a gradual increase in their contributions over the course of the contract, although there would be no increase in the first year. Employee contributions vary by type of coverage selected, she said, but would still be “below the national and regional average.”
The contract offers extended by the company were “not only fair and reasonable, but also realistic in our current business environment,” Chong stated.
The company continues to work with a federal mediator to resolve the dispute, she said.