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August 12. 2014 2:48PM

Market Basket tells workers to return by Friday or risk jobs

Market Basket said Tuesday that it had sent letters to about 200 employees ordering them to return to work by Friday or consider their jobs "abandoned."

"We are writing one final time, to invite you to return to work and perform your job obligations. If your role requires that you primarily work at the company's headquarters or distribution facilities, you must return to such role ready to fulfill your duties by no later than Friday, August 15, 2014," said the letter, confirmed by a Market Basket spokeswoman.

"Alternatively, if your job is based in the field, you are required to return to work and contact either of us prior to August 15 to review the work you are performing. Should you choose to ignore either of these directives, the company will consider you to have abandoned your job, thereby ending your employment with the company," stated the letter from co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, a Market Basket spokeswoman said the letters were targeted at those who have failed to return to work.

"Since July 17, approximately 200 associates who work at headquarters and the distribution centers have failed to report to work, despite several company communications requesting they do so," the company spokesman said. "The company has not taken any action in response to their absence, but is left with no choice but to make this last request. The company will of course follow all applicable laws should these associates choose to abandon their positions."

Dennis Carpenito, assistant store director at the Market Basket in Manchester, said he's heard those statements before.

"I think that's the fourth time that they've been threatened with their jobs, if I'm not mistaken," he said. "We stand by Arthur T. If he comes back, we'll all be back."

Workers have picketed stores and led a widespread customer boycott in an effort to get back the company's deposed CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, who is trying to buy a controlling interest in the company.

Market Basket also said that salaried exempt employees were paid in advance for July, though many had been absent from work since July 17; that all salaried exempt employees who have shown up to work, reported to management or have approved vacation also have been paid for August; and that non-exempt hourly employees have been paid all hours for which they worked.

Market Basket has drastically reduced the scheduled hours of part-time workers for this week after ordering store directors to better balance payroll, as locations contend with drastically reduced store sales.

mcousineau@unionleader.com



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