Describing it as an “agonizing decision,” Blue Bell Creameries announced its first layoffs in 108 years of business, cutting more than one-third of its workforce after the company stopped production and initiated a full recall in April when some of its products were linked to an outbreak of Listeriosis.
Company President and CEO Paul Kruse made the announcement citing an extended timeline and limited distribution as reasons for the decision. Kruse said other cost-cutting measures including furloughs and salary reductions will also be necessary.
Approximately 1,400 employees will be furloughed, and approximately 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees – or 37 percent of the total Blue Bell workforce of 3,900 – will be laid off, the company said.
“The agonizing decision to lay off hundreds of our great workers and reduce hours and pay for others was the most difficult one I have had to make in my time as Blue Bell’s CEO and President,” Kruse said. “At Blue Bell, our employees are part of our family, and we did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible. At the same time, we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future. This is a sad day for all of us at Blue Bell, and for me personally."
Blue Bell said the process of cleaning and improving its four production plants will take longer than initially anticipated, especially at the main plant in Brenham where major repairs and equipment replacements are expected. The company has no firm timeline for when production will resume.
Blue Bell also decided to suspend operations and lay off employees at the following distribution centers: Phoenix (2 branches) and Tucson, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Indianapolis, Indiana; Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas; Louisville, Kentucky; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Las Vegas, Nevada; Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and, Richmond, Virginia.