Ben & Jerry's Lays Off Seven Vermont Executives

01/17/02 12:00AM



(Host)
Vermont's famous ice cream maker has laid off seven people at its South Burlington headquarters. A spokeswoman for Ben & Jerry's says the job cuts affected the company's marketing division.

The company says the move was part of a realignment of management staff, and was not driven by financial pressures.

VPR's John Dillon reports.


(Dillon)
Ben & Jerry's was sold two years ago to Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer products companies.

However, Ben & Jerry's spokeswoman Chrystie Heimert says the Vermont company still makes its own decisions about business strategy. She says Ben & Jerry's recently decided to cut positions in its marketing division.

(Heimert) "The changes at Ben & Jerry's on Monday were strategic organizational changes in our marketing department. They were not cost-cutting measures. They were a reallocation of resources in our marketing group, basically to better support our franchisees in the field."

(Dillon)
There are 240 Ben & Jerry's retail shops scattered around 31 states and Canada. Heimart says that the company plans to open another 30 shops this year.

She says executives realized that the retail operations needed more support. So while the company cut seven positions at its Vermont offices, Ben & Jerry's will hire four new people to work with scoop shops around the country.

Ben & Jerry's employs 800 full- and part-time workers. Heimert says Unilever did not order the lay-offs.

(Heimert) These are business decisions made by Ben & Jerry's, by members of the Ben & Jerry's management team. So there was no influence or suggestion that this be done by any Unilever individual or entities. We're running our business here, without input from them."

(Dillon)
Heimert says it was difficult for management to fire people who had been with the company for a decade or more. But she says the workers got generous severance packages. The laid-off employees can also apply for new positions at the company if Ben & Jerry's starts hiring again.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon.
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