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Blue Bell lays off more than a third of workforce after listeria problems

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Photo Credit: Blue Bell

HOUSTON (AP) – Blue Bell Creameries says it will lay more than a third of its workforce following a series of listeria illnesses linked to its ice cream that prompted a total product recall.

The Texas company, whose production plants remain closed, released a statement Friday saying 750 full-time employees and 700 part-time workers are losing their jobs. That represents about 37 percent of the company’s 3,900 employees.

Blue Bell says another 1,400 workers will be furloughed, and employees essential to the ongoing clean-up and repair efforts will continue working but have their pay reduced.

Blue Bell’s CEO and President Paul Kruse issued a video statement on Friday detailing what he calls an “agonizing decision”.

“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.”

The company says the process of cleaning and improving Blue Bell’s four production plants is going to take longer than initially anticipated, especially at the main plant in Brenham, Texas where major repairs and equipment replacements are expected. There is no firm timeline for when Blue Bell will begin producing ice cream again. When production resumes, it will be limited and phased in over time.

Blue Bell also made the decision 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

The layoffs come after the company signed agreements on Thursday with health officials in Texas and Oklahoma detailing steps the company will follow to resume production.

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