Delhaize supermarket started another special works council at 09:30 on Tuesday to discuss the chain's plans to franchise the 128 directly-managed outlets it runs. After two weeks of strike actions by displeased staff, early reports state that the atmosphere has been tense.
According to the unions involved, around 200 affected staff had already turned up at the offices where the works council is taking place at 08:30, but they have little hope for the outcome of the meeting.
Last week, a special works council lasted only 15 minutes. On Monday 20 March, the unions were displeased by the presence of security guards for a regular, long-scheduled works council. They stated that they "will not tolerate" the presence of security guards in the negotiating room on Tuesday, said Wilson Wellens of the liberal union ACLVB.
Treated like terrorists
At the works council on Monday, the union representatives were searched upon arrival. Guards were also stationed inside the meeting room to "keep watch". The trade union BBTK-ABVV argued that the Delhaize management has been "treating unions like terrorists" and that never in the history of their trade union had they witnessed "such contempt for social consultation."
"We expect a rapprochement," said Jan De Weghe of the socialist BBTK, who deplored the grim atmosphere. "There is again a whole battalion of security people and police present. We hope we can work serenely."
The supermarket's management has affirmed that the security personnel will remain present for the safety of all, yet insisted "they will be stationed outside the venue," explained Delhaize spokesman Roel Dekelver.
- 72 Delhaize shops remain closed on Monday
- 'An attack on staff': Delhaize stores to be turned into franchises
Meanwhile, staff continue to take action. There are 76 Delhaize shops closed on Tuesday due to strike action. The unions also blocked the supermarket chain's distribution centre on Monday. This remains blocked. Dekelver could not say what impact it would have on the shops, but gave assurances that home deliveries will continue.