The loss of hours and possible layoffs for thousands of part-time Market Basket employees will create new costs for the state’s unemployment trust fund, Gov. Maggie Hassan said.
(For more on jobless benefits, see Market Basket and Demoulas FAQs)
“While this may be a private business dispute, it is having a significant financial impact on New Hampshire — on our families, consumers, farmers and other vendors,” Hassan said Thursday. “I continue to urge Market Basket leadership to listen to the concerns of their employees and customers and reach a constructive resolution in order to keep these dedicated workers employed and reduce the impact on consumers.”
A state Rapid Response Team was getting ready for the workforce reduction. Employees called it a layoff. Market Basket executives referred to managers reducing hours, and issued a statement specifying that employees were not being laid off.
Hassan encouraged affected employees at the state’s 29 stores to apply online for unemployment benefits. She said many employees, depending on their hours and circumstances, are likely eligible for the benefits.
New Hampshire Employment Commissioner George Copadis said his department sent out notices over the past week and yesterday to the 29 stores.
The notices included fact sheets on unemployment benefits.
Employees laid off can visit local Employment Security offices, but the state also encourages people to file for benefits online at home if they are able to do so.
“We’ve tried to be proactive and provide outreach to all the store managers,” Copadis said.
The state is ready to help, said Michael Power, community outreach administrator for the Office of Workforce Opportunity within New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development.
“We’ll be ready to assist displaced workers,” Power said. “Our rapid response teams are ready to go.”
When there is a large “dislocation” of employees like this, the state’s Rapid Response Team is mobilized to assist workers and explain options and benefits.
Rapid Response Team members include experts from New Hampshire Employment Security, Workforce Opportunity, the state Department of Health and Human Services, vocational rehabilitation and the community college system.
The team meets with the affected workers, sometimes on-site, or off-site as necessary.
Power said the team provides an overview of services and options available to them so that they can access available benefits and find work.
Many state legislators signed onto a petition last month urging consumers to boycott Market Basket. More than 100 lawmakers had signed the petition submitted to the chain’s headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass., state Rep. Peter Sullivan, D-Manchester, said.
House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, was among those supporting the petition, which called upon “the management of Market Basket to enter into a good-faith dialogue with its New Hampshire employees.”
“We were trying to send a message to the employees that we have their back,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said reports of massive layoffs are a sign that Market Basket company executives did not grasp the value of their employees.
He said the Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire Department of Labor should closely monitor the situation as it unfolds.
U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., sent a letter last week to Market Basket’s board of directors urging executives of the supermarket chain to support the workers.
Shea-Porter wrote, “I hope they will not be fired simply for standing up and supporting a business and management they all have loyally served.”
On Tuesday, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to support a motion from Alderman Joyce Craig backing the employees who have waged a vigorous campaign to bring back ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
“I support and I’m very impressed with the Market Basket employees and customers standing up for what they believe in,” Craig said.
For more information, visit the New Hampshire Employment Security website at www.nhes.nh.gov. Workers can call 1-800-266-2252 or 223-6126 for unemployment questions and claims. Questions about wage-and-hour issues should be directed to the state Department of Labor at 271-3176.
Union Leader Staff Writer Ted Siefer contributed to this report.