Unemployment offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are bracing for a flood of Market Basket employees expected to file for jobless benefits.
Approximately 20,000 part-time employees at the supermarket chain’s 71 stores, including 29 in New Hampshire and 41 in Massachusetts, are having their hours eliminated.
A swell of unemployment filers is anticipated as the stalemate continues.
Starting Friday, some of the 298 workers from 12 New Hampshire Employment Security offices from around the state will be shifted to other offices.
Market Basket executives have directed managers at all stores to adjust employees’ schedules and hours in accordance with store sales, which have plummeted by up to 90 percent at many stores. Company officials said the part-time employees, who account for about 80 percent of the total workforce, are not being laid off, but are being given no hours until business starts to rebound.
Market Basket has more than 11,000 part-time workers in Massachusetts and about 8,000 in New Hampshire. The chain employs 25,000 people in 71 stores in three states. Maine has a single store in Biddeford.
The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance said the employees whose hours are cut could qualify for unemployment benefits.
“If an employer has no work for its employees, then, all else being equal, those employees are in unemployment and may, if otherwise eligible, be entitled to unemployment benefits,” said Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the department.
In Massachusetts, it can take several weeks to process a claim, from the time a person applies until they receive any benefits. Dufresne said if a person loses a job through no fault of his or her own and they’re ready and able to work, they usually qualify for unemployment.
Benefits in Massachusetts typically are about half of average weekly wages, up to a maximum of $679 per week, according to the Department of Unemployment Assistance. They last up to 30 weeks.
Mike King, Market Basket’s controller, was protesting outside headquarters Thursday morning. He said laying off thousands of employees for a long period of time could prove expensive to the company, which has to contribute to the state’s unemployment fund.
“The more you pay, the more the rate goes up,” he said.
In New Hampshire, Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis said Thursday his staff is prepared to assist the approximately 8,000 part-time Granite State employees at the state’s 29 stores. The Londonderry store alone has nearly 600 employees, including 470 who work part time. Market Basket employs approximately 9,500 in New Hampshire.
“The department has been proactive in responding to the ongoing situation at Market Basket,” Copadis said. “We are ready to address all these filings — I can assure each and every one of that.”
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan also responded to the Market Basket stalemate Thursday as thousands of store employees continue their demands that the company’s board reinstate fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
Demoulas, who workers say was responsible for the chain’s family-like work environment and low prices, was terminated in June. That’s when control of the board shifted to his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. Members of the Demoulas family have been at odds with each other for decades.
Hassan expressed concern that part-time employees’ hours would be eliminated.
“The reports about these reductions in hours are incredibly troubling,” Hassan said, “as many of these dedicated employees have been showing up for work and clearly value the company’s past, present and future.”
New Hampshire Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice said her office has received numerous calls from store employees. But they have been directed to Employment Security or the state Department of Labor because the Attorney General’s Office has no authority over wage and hours issues.
Hassan and Copadis said although it is too early to accurately measure the stalemate’s impact on New Hampshire’s economy, it’s certainly substantial. Market Basket is one of the state’s largest employers, according to Copadis.
“While this may be a private business dispute, it is having a significant financial impact on New Hampshire — on our families, consumers, farmers and other vendors ... “ Hassan said. “I continue to urge Market Basket leadership to listen to the concerns of their employees and customers and reach a constructive resolution in order to keep these dedicated workers employed and reduce the impact on consumers.”
Staff writer Douglas Moser contributed to this report.