Haggen laying off dozens of workers, union filing grievances
July 16, 2015
By KAREN VELIE
Haggen, a Washington-based chain of grocery stores that recently purchased 83 new stores in California, has laid off dozens of Central Coast workers in the past few days while other employees were moved from full-time to part-time hours.
Earlier this year, Haggen bought 146 Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Safeway stores. Employees retained their union contracts and were assured the company would do whatever it took to make the takeover successful.
Haggen Southwest CEO Bill Shaner blames competition from other grocery retailers for Haggen’s failures to retain customers.
“As we introduce Haggen throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, our challenge is to establish and grow the brand in new markets, while transitioning former Albertsons/Vons customers,” Shaner said. “The competitive activity launched in response to our entry into the marketplace – while expected – has been unprecedented.”
However, some former customers said they changed grocery stores after Haggen increased pricing significantly. The customer base has fallen by almost 50 percent in some stores, one clerk said.
Store officials reacted with layoffs and terminations at Central Coast stores in Paso Robles, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Goleta, Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Los Osos. In Paso Robles, Haggen laid off 11 employees and cut the hours of 12 employees.
One employee who has worked in a San Luis Obispo County store since the 1980s, said he was informed over the weekend that his hours would be cut from full to part-time. He questions if the union is doing all it can to protect local Haggen employees.
Local UFCW officials said Haggen is trying to correct pricing issues and bring customers back.
“They assured us they will do whatever it takes to make it successful,” said Kathy Finn, the Local UFCW 770 director of collective bargaining. “They need to get it under control, and not by cutting staff.”
The union has responded to the current layoffs and hourly reductions by examining contracts and in some cases, filing grievances.
“We have already filed several grievances,” Finn said. “There are seniority provisions in place to protect employees. Layoffs and reductions have to be done by seniority.”
Get links to local stories, like CCN on Facebook.