BA Chamber Helping Laid Off Blue Bell Employees Find Jobs

Friday, May 15th 2015, 11:14 pm
By: News On 6

Several Blue Bell Creamery workers are searching for jobs nearly two months after a Listeria scare shut down all of the company's production plants, including the one in Broken Arrow.

Friday, it was announced that nearly 40 percent of the company's staff, nationwide, will be laid off.

Now the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce is working to get employees back to work.

More than half of the employees at the creamery were either laid off or put on furlough. The remaining 114 still have a job, but some will have reduced hours.

5/15/2015 Related Story: Blue Bell Ice Cream Announces Layoffs, Furloughs

While the layoff numbers aren't as high at the Broken Arrow plant as other places, it's still a big loss for the city.

The doors at Blue Bell creameries across the country are shutting out more people. In Friday's shut out, nearly 1,400 people across four creameries were laid off.

Ashley Herring doesn't work at the plant but said the creamery is a big part of Broken Arrow.

"It's sad that they couldn't take care of their own plant and people are out of work," she said.

Considering all the new developments, she's worried this may not be the worst of it.

“I think it's probably gonna get worse because they are cleaning things up so fast, I think they are gonna lay off more people," Herring said.

At the Broken Arrow location, the Chamber of Commerce reports 20 layoffs and expects 75 more employees are to be placed on furlough - others will keep their jobs, but with reduced hours.

Blue Bell CEO, Paul Kruse said, in a video, "The most difficult thing I've had to do in my life, is the incredibly tough decision to reduce pay and layoff some of the great people at Blue Bell."

When the creameries began suspending ice cream production in April, the goal was to pinpoint how Listeria was getting into the ice cream supply.

With the discovery of more problems, the production suspension will take longer.

In statement, Chamber president Wes Smithwick said:

"Blue Bell has been amazing to this community and we plan to continue to show our support to them. Our hearts go out to those who have been affected by this announcement,"

To help the 20 former Broken Arrow Blue Bell employees, Blue Bell asked the chamber for help; they answered by organizing a job fair.

The job fair had already been in the works to give people who had been laid off in the oil industry a way to search for a job, but now Blue Bell employees will be considered for the fair.

The fair will be May 27th from 4-6 p.m. at the chamber office.

As of now, there is no timeline on when production will resume, but Blue Bell said when it does start, it will be limited and phased in over time.