Kmart not slashing workers hours, manager says

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Carson City's Super Kmart is not cutting its workers' hours, store director Kirk Hays said Thursday.

But one former Super Kmart employee said he quit because of a lack of working hours.

Hays said he was stunned by a report in the Nevada Appeal on Wednesday that the local Super Kmart was cutting its workers' hours in an effort to preserve jobs. In the article, a corporate spokeswoman confirmed that in light of continued profit losses, the company is both cutting hours and letting people go from many of its stores.

But that's on a corporate level, Hays said. The Carson store is the third-most profitable Kmart in the West, and Hayes said he isn't cutting employee hours. Occasionally shifting hours from unproductive employee to productive employees, yes. Slashing, no.

In fact, he said, he's hiring.

But Carlo Velasquez, 62, said his hours were cut in July to the point it wasn't worth working for the company.

A retired painting contractor, Velasquez said he started at Kmart at the end of June because he wanted something to keep him occupied. His first week, he worked 37 hours, the next, 15. After that his hours steadily dropped. When he was working, he said he was sometimes split between up to three departments, the only helper in any of them.

He quit Aug. 1 when he was scheduled for just eight hours over two days. He said between the hours, low morale and complaints over bad customer service, he's ruined for work in retail.

And despite Hays' claims contrary, Velasquez said "if you walked in there and talked to anyone in electronics, housing, sporting goods or the toy department, any of the employees who are working there right now ... every one of them has had their hours cut to 12 or 13 hours.

"It was everybody," he said. "They'd look at the schedule on breaks and say, 'Oh, they cut my hours. They cut my hours.'"

Hays said he lost help when the Douglas County Super Wal-Mart opened, and because of increased retail competition in the last year in the form of Costco, Lowe's, Ross Dress for Less and the neighboring Albertson's grocery store.

Despite the spread of the same dollars to more retailers, Hays said he's "running more help than I've ever had in this building."

All retailers are hurting because of competition, he said, and many are culling work hours to hold down costs. When his employee costs aren't in line with profits, he said, he lets retail's naturally high attrition hold employee costs down.

Hays said the notion his workers are getting shortchanged on hours hurts the store in a time when the company is facing Chapter 11, the region has a glut of competing retail development and the store has had some distribution problems keeping the store from being fully stocked.

The distribution problem has been addressed, and he said Carson's store is safe from being closed despite rumors it would shutter its doors at the beginning of next year.

Kmart employs around 190 people, 45 percent of whom are full-time, Hays said.


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