Trucking Company VP on Layoff: “This is better than death by 1,000 cuts.”

CONCORD, ON. — It’s no secret that the 20-year relationship between Muir’s Cartage and Home Depot has been mutually beneficial. But when the hardware retailer changed from a vendor pre-paid model to a vendor-collect program five years ago, Muir’s was forced to adapt.

“Muir’s had been so inextricably linked to one customer for so long that its impact on the company was significant,” Executive Vice-President Ted Brown told after Muirs announced that it was laying off 33 company drivers earlier this month. (Muir’s is a division of the much-larger Calyx Group, with almost 2,000 employees across North America.)

Muir’s, Brown said, “is faced with the need to change the way it does business, the way we deploy our fleets and people, and diversify the customer base so that we’re a good supplier to not just Home Depot, but others.”

The decision to drop the company drivers was one of many changes over the last five years, Brown said. As an example, he pointed to the company’s 205 Dony Crescent facility in Concord, ON. It used to be Muir’s cross-dock but now it’s occupied by Home Depot.

“We have considerably less emphasis on our cross-dock activity as a result — we still have some element of that for smaller customers,” he said.

But now, Brown said, they’re focusing on “dedicated contract carriage and transportation fleet provisions for Home Depot, Best Buy, Loblaws, Winners and some others that we work with in the retail sector.” They’re also diversify within retail and outside retail, he added.

“So with all of that, you just simply can’t deploy the same model you had for 20 years, and part of that is cost, and part of that is flexibility that’s required in servicing those customers.”

“It came to a point where we looked at the driving groups we had, and the company guys made up less than 30 percent of the overall group at our address in Concord, and less than 20 percent in our Ontario fleet all together.”

The evolution of the business, he said, “was happening outside of that group to begin with.”

Brown said that an alternative course could have involved incremental layoffs, over a longer period of time.

“We simply thought it was fairer for these guys to take the action in one initiative. We would provide them with the opportunity to apply through some of our agency providers or at least one major in-house provider.

“It was more prudent than death by a thousand cuts; it was better to do something that was definitive once and carry the model forward.”

“This was the most significant decision that I had to prepare for and carry out, I can’t think of anything prior that was this significant — especially with so many people good people involved.

“We didn’t do this on a whim and we didn’t take this lightly. At the same time, we wouldn’t have proceeded with it if we didn’t think it was the right thing for us.

“If nothing else, it is just positioning us to be a player now in areas where we haven’t been in past — and that can be different verticals or different geographical locations, and that’s our full intent as we march along here in the new year.”

Of the 33 affected drivers, Brown said that over 50 percent have re-applied through an agency called Interlink Services, “and [they] are now being deployed on a number of our routes as we speak.”

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