Blue Bell Creameries CEO Paul Kruse said Friday that the company made “the agonizing decision” to reduce its workforce and make other cost cuts while it worked to recover from a listeria outbreak traced to the company.
Layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts were among tactics announced. About 1,400 employees will be furloughed, and about 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 company said operations were being suspended and workers laid off at distribution centers, including one in Kansas City, Kan. Blue Bell did not give a number for how many employees it had at that center.
Blue Bell is cleaning and sanitizing its four production facilities in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama after a deadly bacteria outbreak was traced to at least two of its creameries.
Kruse said it was a sad day but necessary to ensure the company’s viability in the future.
“The process of cleaning and improving Blue Bell’s four production plants is going to take longer than the company initially anticipated, especially at the main plant in Brenham, where major repairs and equipment replacements are expected,” the company announced. “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.”
Information provided by the company said:
▪ Employees deemed essential to ongoing operations, cleaning and repairs will continue to work but have their pay reduced.
▪ A second group will be on partially paid furlough and return to work when production resumes.
▪ A third group of employees will be laid off.
Besides the Kansas City, Kan., distribution center, others suspending operations are in Wichita, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Indianapolis, Louisville, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, S.C., and Richmond, Va.
Blue Bell said it is reaching out to chambers of commerce to ask for help and referrals for laid-off employees. Business owners who may have jobs can reach Blue Bell at 979-830-9831 or at email@example.com.