72 Delhaize shops remain closed on Monday

72 Delhaize shops remain closed on Monday
Staff pictured outside during a spontaneous strike at Delhaize in Gent earlier this month. Credit: Belga / Robbe Vandegehuchte

The spokesperson of Delhaize confirmed on Monday that 72 of the supermarket chain's 128 company-owned shops are still closed, although depots are not blocked.

The mass strike action started nearly two weeks ago after Delhaize announced its plan to franchise the remaining company-owned shops. Unions explained that this would result in lower pay and working conditions, as well as the eventual loss of some employees' jobs, resulting in Delhaize shops across Belgium closing their doors in protest. Most closed stores are in Brussels and Wallonia.

The chain's management and the unions arranged a sit-down meeting which was intended to answer the questions from the unions last week. Hundreds of employees gathered outside the headquarters of Delhaize, where the meeting was held.

However, the supermarket chain management made their position clear that the franchise will definitely go ahead, resulting in the unions walking out of the meeting.

Unions, not terrorists

Trade union BBTK-ABVV has since argued that the company's management has been "treating unions like terrorists." A regular works council took place on Monday 20 March, but upon arrival at the meeting, union delegates with a mandate to participate in the works council were confronted by a line of security guards, who extensively searched them before they could enter the meeting room

"The same guards then posted themselves inside to 'keep watch'," the union said in a statement. "We are deeply outraged and shocked at this latest insult to workers' representatives. Such practices are simply disgusting. Never in our trade union history have we witnessed such contempt for social consultation."

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BBTK-ABVV argued that by introducing such measures, Delhaize is creating a "climate of unease and aggression," which it added would not be tolerated. Another works council has been scheduled for Tuesday, but unions have warned they will refuse to participate in works council meetings unless Delhaize changes its attitude.

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