The agreement between unions and the Delhaize management signed mid-February as part of a major restructuring effort will be implemented, revealed CNE (a union) following a board meeting on Monday. In spite of this reassuring statement, SETCa (a union) remains wary, mentioning a “stiff” board meeting which did not bring back trust. Unions feared the agreements would be questioned after the Delhaize management confirmed talks were taking place which may result in a merger with Dutch group Ahold last week.
At the board meeting on Monday, they expressed their fears, speaking in particular to Frans Muller, CEO of the global group. “His presence here shows that they are aware of our fears”, commented Delphine Latawiec, CNE national secretary. “The Belgian management team added that they had not been informed of the merger talks with Ahold, and that these talks were initiated after the restructuring took place. Investments agreed will be made,” she added.
This investment promise leaves Myriam Delmee, her SETCa counterpart, doubtful. “Investments will be made but within what framework? After a potential merger, which stores will benefit from these investments?" worries Mrs. Delmee, who added the Belgian management talks on Monday seemed “a bit rushed”.
As for a possible merger with Ahold, the management explained “contact had been made” in order to investigate whether a first wave of collaboration was feasible, according to CNE. A Delhaize spokesperson confirmed talks with the Albert Heijn parent company had only just started. Whether for a merger or a takeover is not on the agenda, he says.
On this point, the Flemish-speaking branch of the Christian union has doubts. Our specific questions have gone unanswered,” commented Veerle Verleyen (LBC). The union fears both a merger and a takeover when it comes to jobs. “Workers live in fear whereas the development of a new store concept requires a quiet atmosphere,” she adds. Protests are not out of the question, but the union will start by consulting its members. SETCa highlights the uncertainty workers have to face as well. The Socialist union will first inform its members, but “if and when workers decide to act, we will support them,” added Mrs. Delmee.