New owners offer buyouts to Pittsburgh Heinz staff


PITTSBURGH (AP) — The new owners of H.J. Heinz Co. have
offered buyouts to all workers in Pittsburgh, where the ketchup-and-food
giant has been based for decades, but insist the offer doesn’t signal a
plan to move the company’s headquarters.
Instead, Heinz officials
said the buyout is being offered because the new owners Berkshire
Hathaway and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital recognize the
company’s new culture might not be "the perfect fit" for longtime
Pittsburgh-based employees. Heinz officials said any workers who quit
will be replaced, leaving the company with the same number of workers in
The buyout offers, which begin at six months’
severance pay and increase depending on years of service, were sent out
last week to all 775 Pittsburgh employees. The workers have until Monday
to decide whether to accept.
"Heinz realizes that its new dynamic
and results-driven culture, focused on efficiency and meritocracy, may
not be the perfect fit for every employee," according to a statement
from Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate and government
affairs. "Consequently, we have decided to provide a generous
opportunity for eligible employees to leave Heinz with enhanced
severance benefits."
Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital took Heinz
private in a $23.3 billion deal last June. Heinz cut 600 North American
jobs in August, including 350 in the Pittsburgh region, and in November
announced plans to close three plants in North America and cut another
1,350 jobs in an effort to operate more efficiently.
However, the
company also announced it would invest in its remaining facilities and
add 470 positions at five factories in Ohio, Iowa, California and
Canada, leaving Heinz with roughly 6,800 North American workers.
the company’s assurances, Point Park University business professor
Elaine Luther believes the buyouts could mark a shift of power from the
company’s Pittsburgh roots. The company was founded in nearby Sharpsburg
in 1869 and moved to Pittsburgh in 1890, though it wasn’t officially
incorporated until 1905.
"If they’re just offering it to
Pittsburgh, it sounds like something other than a corporate culture
change," Luther said, who predicts the Pittsburgh region will lose Heinz
jobs overall.
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