In March,2010, AmeriGas sent a direct mail to hourly employees informing them that, due to economic conditions, payroll hours would be reduced from 40 to 36 hours per week through the summer months. (April through Sept.) This appears to be a business decision to reduce expenses. My concern is on the ramifications of such a plan. Safety, customer service and employee morale will suffer under this dictate.
Employees are exhibiting signs of anger, resentment, and fear at the prospect of reduced hours. These are emotions that are very hard for individuals to control and suppress, and present an obvious distraction to employees handling hazardous materials and hazardous material vehicles. In our industry, one moment of distraction can cause serious injury, widespread disaster and death. As of this writing, AmeriGas has failed to recognize this potentiality or address it with employees. Upper management must now accept much of the responsibility for any accidents caused by inattention during this period.
Summer has historically been the time for the L.P. gas industry to step up customer service and concentrate on projects that make our environment safer. It was the summer that provided us with time to perform safety checks on customer propane systems, and make upgrades to prevent future problems. We took extra time to clean, repair and make our plants safer.
Painting and preparing leak free tanks to help grow the business was another of the important summertime projects. Perhaps the most important summer project was growing the business with tank sets and sales. Linking work force hours to monthly gallons delivered is sophomoric and short sighted.
The letter employees received from Gene Bissell implied that hourly AmeriGas employees have been freeloading through the summer seasons. This accusation along with the monetary reduction has crushed employee morale. Like it or not, hourly employees are the backbone of any successful business enterprise. We, the hourly employees, are what most customers see as AmeriGas. I'm afraid that what customers will now see is a distracted,uncaring Amerigas with severe back problems.
In closing, I see no great benefit to AmeriGas in this action. Any accident due to employee anger or distraction could easily cost this company millions. Outside labor will have to be employed for such things as building and yard maintenance. Sales and customer relations may sag along with the employees deteriorated attitudes. Shifting expenses from one line item to another serves no useful purpose. Shame on AmeriGas management for not thinking this through logically. A better course of action would have been to suspend ALL bonuses and options for the fiscal year, and share the burden with all corporate employees.