News Column

Food World Dumping Full-timers, Hiring Part-timers

April 12, 2013

Trent Moore -- Cullman Times

Jobs could be on the line at the Food World in Cullman, Ala., as corporate owner Belle Foods rolls out a major restructuring for the grocery company.

Birmingham-based Belle Foods has announced a plan to add 300 new part-time employees, while reducing the number of full-time employees at all their stores. The company says the move is an effort to "right-size the company and get its full-time to part-time ratio in line with those of industry standards."

The company is reportedly offering part-time positions to its affected full-time staff.

A manager at the Cullman location declined to comment on the changes. It is unknown how many full-time positions will be affected locally, or how many employees will lose or have their healthcare benefits affected.

"It was a hard decision to make. I really do care for every Belle teammate as if they were a member of my own family," Belle Foods CEO Bill White said in a statement. "However, at the end of the day, I could see that if I didn't move forward with these reductions, even more teammates could be negatively affected."

In a prepared statement, White said he believes the change will allow the company to recruit new talent and remain competitive for years to come.

The Cullman grocery store has had three different owners in the past five years, after being sold off with several Bruno's locations. The local Food World was purchased along with 56 other grocery stores across Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

Company officials say unionization dating back to the Bruno's era has allowed senior employees to push out those with less experience, as more veteran employees took positions in a dwindling amount of stores, leading to higher-than-usual salaries.

"While union membership has resulted in less turnover and more experienced personnel than is the case with the average grocery chain, it has also resulted in a concentration of full-time employees with higher than average salaries being placed into a much smaller number of stores," the statement read. "When coupled with the complications such as those in Georgia, where Belle and many other grocers have faced difficulties getting the state's approval to accept WIC vouchers, Belle's labor costs have grown disproportionate to the company's revenue."

Belle Foods recently partnered with Birmingham-based union RWDSU Local 932. A representative for the union was unavailable for comment by deadline of this article.

Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce President Leah Bolin noted the trend to replace full-time employees with less-expensive part-time personnel does make business sense, but can be a major detriment to the personal lives of those affected.

"All businesses have had to tighten their belts and make cuts in various and sundry ways, and I can certainly understand having to modify," she said. "But when you affect people's jobs, that's a hard hit not only to the local economy, but on the personal level of people in our community. We're doing a lot of things in the community and trying to create jobs, and hopefully we'll be able to offset things for those who have maybe lost their jobs, or been moved into part-time, and aren't quite able to keep their heads above water."


(c)2013 The Cullman Times (Cullman, Ala.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: Copyright Cullman Times (AL) 2013

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