Market Basket Issues Ultimatum To Employees

Market Basket executives have issued an ultimatum to workers who have walked off the job in support of fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Those workers have until the beginning of next week to return to work or lose their position with the company.

In a statement issued Wednesday, July 30,  the company’s new management acknowledged that the current standoff has been difficult for both sides and repeated their assurance to workers that they can return without fear of any penalty. If they do not, the company is prepared to move on without them, the statement said.

“We need associates to return to work on Monday August 4th. We understand that some associates may choose not to return; consequently we will begin advertising for employment opportunities,” the statement said.
Management said that they need people working to “support stores, customers and vendors” and their preference is for current workers to return to their jobs.

“Again, any associate that wants to return will be welcomed and not penalized,” the company said.

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The company plans to hold job fairs on Monday and Tuesday, August 4 and 5, from 4 PM to 8 PM for current employees, and Wednesday, August 6, from 1 PM to 8 PM for outside candidates. All three fairs will be at the company’s information technology center in Andover.

By Monday, the standoff between the company’s new management and workers loyal to Arthur T. Demoulas will have entered its third week.

Arthur T. Demoulas was fired in June by the board of directors which is now controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. The two are grandsons of the franchise’s founder and have been at the center of a family feud for decades. Eight other longtime employees have also been fired after showing their support of Arthur T.

Arthur T.’s ouster has led to boycotts, protests, employees walking off the job, distribution centers shutting down, empty store shelves and disgruntled customers. A rally at the company’s headquarters in Tewksbury last weekend drew 10,000 people, all demanding the reinstatement of Arthur T. as chief executive.

Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to buy the 50.5 percent of the company’s shares that would give him complete ownership of the grocery chain. The board of directors announced last week they are considering his offer and several others. A dollar figure for Arthur T.’s offer has not been made public.

At the Market Basket in Sagamore, store manager Paul Quigley said that he has had only one delivery in the last six day, and that was only non-perishable food items. Fresh produce, meats, delicatessen and dairy shelves are empty. Despite that, Mr. Quigley said that  employees at his store are “staying the course” in support of the fired CEO.

“We’re unified, and there’s very little buckling in the ranks. People are firm and solid,” he said.

He said everyone is cautiously optimistic, waiting for an answer from the board of directors on whether they will accept Arthur T.’s buyout offer. He believes that the standoff is at the point of no return in favor of the employees.

“I can’t see any other endgame. The company is losing money, hand over fist, every day,” he said.

Meanwhile, other merchants in the area said that Market Basket’s troubles have resulted in renewed fortunes for rival grocers.

Grace M. Gooding, owner of Kidz Closet on Quaker Meetinghouse Road in Sandwich said she has noticed a palpable increase in customers at the Super Stop & Shop near her store. Ms. Gooding said that when the Market Basket opened in Sagamore in June 2012, it had an immediate detrimental effect on the two Stop & Shop stores in Sandwich.

“They really took a hit. The one on 6A was hit harder,” she said.

She said that in recent weeks, she has noticed a definite increase in customer traffic that she attributes to people returning to Super Stop & Shop because they cannot get everything they need at Market Basket anymore.

“People today are too busy. They can’t go to two stores, so they’re just going to Stop & Shop,” she said.

She added that many of her customers are siding with the employees in the Market Basket standoff. Most question why the company brought in new management, and feel that Arthur T. should be brought back.

“Why mess with success?” she said.

Management at the Stop & Shop on Route 6A would not comment on the Market Basket situation and whether there has been an increase in business because of what is happening at the Sagamore grocer.

At the nearby Aubuchon Hardware store on Route 6A in Sandwich, store manager Jeffrey D. Butland said he has noticed an increased amount of traffic in the parking lot of the neighboring Stop & Shop, an increase he attributes to the Market Basket turmoil. Asked for his reaction to what is happening with Market Basket, Mr. Butland said much of what he would have to say could not be printed.

“Bunch of idiots. They’re destroying their company,” he said.

At Roche Bros. in Mashpee, assistant store manager Michael J. Moriello said it is difficult to attribute any increased business to Market Basket’s troubles.

“It’s the summer, so we’re just busy anyway. There may or may not be an increase, but it’s hard to quantify, given the season,” he said.

Dena C. Zigun, director of marketing for Roche Bros. issued this statement on behalf of the company: “Our stores have fully stocked our departments to meet the needs of any customers that choose to shop with us. We are always adapting our various staffing and stocking levels to meet changing demands in the marketplace.”

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