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As Business Slows, Market Basket Tells Stores To Cut Part-Time Hours

The rally had the atmosphere of an outdoor rock festival, as participants threw beach balls high in the air and music blasted from large speakers set up along the parking lot. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Supporters of ousted Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas held their fourth large rally in Tewskbury on Tuesday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

BOSTON — Market Basket is asking its store directors to cut hours for part-time workers in response to slowed business as the standoff between the company and workers demanding the reinstatement of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas enters its fourth week.

A spokesperson for the company said in a statement Thursday that it’s “standard company practice” for store directors to adjust hours for store associates to meet demand and that associates are not being laid off.

“Store Directors were not instructed to lay off associates, but to adjust hours to meet current demand,” the statement said. “It is our hope that we will be back to normal business levels in the not too distant future and all associates will be back to a full schedule.”

State Attorney General Martha Coakley, citing a recent uptick in calls to her office, created a hotline Thursday for Market Basket workers concerned about labor law violations.

“They are a private company. They are entitled to, within certain bounds, to take actions. We understand that,” Coakley said Thursday afternoon. “Our point is we do want employees to know what their rights are and to be able to feel that they will be protected.”

Market Basket has fired eight employees since the protests began last month, but started seeking replacements Monday for those who had not returned to work.

In a letter last week, Coakley and New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster warned the company that they would be watching to ensure the company fairly compensates any terminated employees. Foster on Thursday instructed New Hampshire residents with questions to contact the state’s Department of Labor.

As WBUR’s Curt Nickisch reported earlier, about a 100 people showed up in person Wednesday for the third day of a Market Basket job fair, which was open to outside applicants. Waiting to meet them was a mass of Market Basket workers.

“You dirtbag!” one protester kept shouting. “Scum!” another shouted.

Those are some of the nicer names current workers called the job applicants. Among the protesters was Cathy Perkins, who works at store No. 22 in Tewksbury.

“I’m kind of conflicted, quite honestly,” she said. “Because the people that come through, some of them look pretty desperate. But we need our jobs. For these people to come and take our jobs, it’s not right.”

The company that owns the Hannaford grocery chain is reportedly offering to buy part or all of the chain, which could complicate an offer from Arthur T.

Arthur T. was ousted in June by the supermarket’s board of directors, which is controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. The two have a long-running feud.

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