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Vann’s lays off at least 17 employees

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Dec 05 2012 06:32:16 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 05 2012 10:29:12 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Heartbreaking news for more than a dozen Vann's appliance employees who were told they've been let go.

NBC Montana has been fielding calls all day from former employees who tell us with the holidays only a few weeks away, it couldn't have come at a worse time.

We first brought you the story Tuesday, and all day Wednesday we've been uncovering more of the story.

A former employee who came forward Wednesday claims the number of employees laid off is over 20, including one of Vann's original employees who had been there for over 30 years. 

None of the former employees want to talk on-record, but at least six of the laid-off workers told us the same story: no severance pay, no termination documentation, no final paycheck and no warning.

One worker called us right after seeing our report Wednesday on the News at Five and said he had been told he'd get his final check Friday.

Another man called in and told us he'd been there six years, has children, a mortgage and Christmas to pay for and no way to do so.   

Workers are telling us their big question is ‘what about health benefits?’  We had one viewer tell us that they were told there would be no COBRA or in-between job insurance.  NBC Montana is still digging into that. 

Wednesday evening NBC Montana talked with the new CEO of Vann's, Greg Regelbrugge, who confirmed system-wide layoffs but wouldn't offer any details of how many people or where.

“We're happy that we were able to save a lot of the jobs that would have been, frankly, let out in a terrible time of the year,” said Regelbrugge.  “This is a terrible time of the year to be doing this, but November is when we had to buy it according to the trustee.”

From a business standpoint laying off employees is the best way to cut costs. We talked to University of Montana business law professor Dr. Jerry Furniss who said it’s fairly common for a business to eliminate positions to cut costs. 

“If you're taking legitimate actions to try and make a business work and make it viable, in order to do that you have to reduce your workforce,” said Furniss.  “That typically is considered a good business reason.”  

NBC Montana went to Vann's Wednesday evening and spoke with the store manager.  He pointed out that if Vann's had gone completely bankrupt all employees would have been out of jobs.  He told us at least this way not everyone had to be let go.

“I don't know a single company in this economy that's not looking to get right sized to run an efficient business,” said Regelbrugge.  “Frankly in a retail segment, all of those savings are being passed on to what we’re buying and then employees we have now so we can take care of them for the next 50 years.”

Regelbrugge told us that none of the people laid off were sales associates.  He says it's all just a matter of trimming and consolidating positions to make the business run more efficiently. 

NBC Montana will continue to check on this story and give you updates if we receive them.