Unions warn of supermarket protests over staff shortages

Unions warn of supermarket protests over staff shortages
Prices of various food products have sharply risen since November last year. Credit: Belga

Unions have warned of strike actions in supermarkets and department stores as staff shortages make working conditions increasingly difficult for existing staff.

Belgian department stores and supermarkets are in urgent need of employees, with at least 2,000 vacancies across the country.

With so many vacancies, the workload on existing staff is growing. The problem occurs at all chains, resulting in sporadic local strikes and protests as a result.

Unions say the situation is so pressing that national actions are "almost inevitable, sooner or later", according to Het Laatste Nieuws. Lidl saw protests last October, with a large number of the more than 300 Lidl branches in the country closing, for days in some cases.

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The majority of the vacancies are in Flanders and Brussels. “Our biggest challenge lies in West Flanders, at the coast, where it is most difficult to find staff,” says spokesperson Isabelle Colbrandt. “I think that the job is unknown to many people and therefore unloved.”

But besides supermarket staff, Lidl is also looking for a lot of people for the head office in Merelbeke, with no fewer than 57 vacancies for support services such as IT, HR, Purchasing and Marketing.

Job bus

Lidl has thus taken initiatives to recruit potential employees, for instance with their "job bus": “Our job bus travels around the country to lower the barrier for job seekers. People can go there with questions about all open jobs and even apply on the spot if they want to.”

The requirements for the ideal supermarket employee are almost the same for every chain: being customer-oriented and flexible. “Candidates also need a good physical condition, have a sense of initiative and can make their own decisions,” said Eva Biltereyst of Colruyt.


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