Medical Benefits Answer in Associate Scheduling

Nov 03, 2003

By George Anderson

Surprisingly, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) may have something they can agree on. Supermarkets would spend less on medical
benefits and reduce employee turnover if they would simply hire more full-time workers.

The union points out that having more full-timers would decrease the number of workers and dependents covered under plans. It would also reduce the numbers leaving retail for
other careers as workers discover it is possible to pay the bills and advanced through the ranks.

FMI’s research supports the union’s contention on lower employee turnover rates when the workforce is made up of a greater number of full-timers. Part time workers were more
than four times more likely in 2002 to leave a job than those working full-time.

The UFCW estimates that 70 percent of its members involved in the lockout/strike in Southern California are part-timers.

Being part-time is not often a matter of the employee’s choice, say walkers on the picket line.

John Earhart, a worker at Von’s before the job action started, told the Press-Enterprise, “You have a better chance winning the lottery than getting full-time.” Mr. Earjart claims
he was seeking full-time employment from the chain since 1994 and had finally achieved it when the chains locked the workers out after they rejected the contract offered.

Supermarkets do not disagree over the benefits of having more full-time employees but they see a downside in it, as well, for their customers.

“We’d all like more full-time people,” said Jack Brown, chief executive officer of the Stater Bros. Chain, which is not part of the California strike. “You would save money if
you reduced the amount of people on the payroll, but then you would not serve the customer in the store.”

Moderator’s Comment: Would a higher percentage of full-time employees result in lower customer service levels at retail?

We recently completed part one of research we’re doing on a high-profile chain by going to work in a store part-time for the better part of the year.

What we found were full-timers were sometimes overworked because part-timers were more likely to miss work or quit.

Adult part-timers who wanted full-time work were not given it and had to get another part-time job to help pay the bills. When the store wanted adult part-timers
to work additional hours, they were unable to because of commitments to their second job.

Part-timers are essential in retail. Our experience tells us, however, that both the customers and the bottom line would be better served if the percentage
of full-timers were increased.
Anderson – Moderator

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