When the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company first unveiled its bankruptcy plans in 2015, we here at the Food Institute took particular notice. One of its Pathmark stores was just a stone's throw away from our office, and the company's headquarters was right next door in Montvale, NJ. Besides our proximity, the closure of the country's oldest supermarket chain certainly put the bankruptcy on our collective radar.
One of the big winners during the divestment sale was Acme, who originally planned to purchase 72 stores operating under A&P's banners, including 37 in New Jersey, reported NJ.com (Sept. 21, 2015). Even my local A&P transitioned to the Acme banner in Mahwah, NJ.
However, about a year and a half out from the purchases, it seems Acme is stumbling in the North Jersey market. The company, which to its credit saved hundreds of grocery jobs when it purchased 10 stores in September 2015, is now looking to shed some of those jobs to tighten up staffing levels, reported The Record (Feb. 6).
According to the report, the company is looking to convert nearly 100 full-time jobs to part-time positions. In deference to the grocery workers' union, Local 464A of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the company is offering voluntary severance packages to help reduce the number of jobs affected. According to Acme communications and government relations manager Danielle D’Elia:
"In northern New Jersey, our stores are overstaffed [by] approximately 100 full-time employees... [Acme is] looking to reduce these employees from full-time to part-time status while maintaining their full-time benefits."
The company is offering buyout pay of $5,000 with three months of continued benefits. For those who do not wish to take the benefits, the buyout pay is listed at $7,500, according to the Local 464A website. There is a catch: the buyouts will only be provided if 49 workers take the deal. If not, Acme will convert 73 full-time jobs to part-time positions. Members of Clifton-based UFCW Local 1262 are also being offered voluntary buyouts. Acme is looking for 14 employees to volunteer for the buyout at the six stores represented by Local 1262.
Union leaders note that Acme has found the North Jersey market to be more competitive than originally anticipated. Residents in the region have strong loyalties to existing chains, including ShopRite and Stop & Shop. According to Harvey While, president of Local 1262:
"They have an overabundance at this particular point of full-time employees because they thought they were going to get out of the gate a little bit stronger than they have... [Acme] still employs, on a percentage basis, a higher number of full-timers than most of the other supermarkets in the area... They have the ability to find their niche. It’s just a question of when they are going to find it."