Lidl stores across Belgium have closed their doors today due to a staff strike over excessive workloads, with unions threatening further action in coming days if nothing changes.
While the exact number of stores affected remains unconfirmed, Belga News Agency reports around 100 supermarkets and two of the five distribution centres were affected on Wednesday.
Stores impacted by the strike include, but are not limited to:
Brussels: Uccle, Forest, Ixelles, Molenbeek, Anderlecht, Schaerbeek and Evere.
East Flanders: Deinze, Oudenaarde, Zelzate, Wondelgem, Ghent (Rijhovelaan), Eeklo and Maldegem, Ash
Limburg: As, Bret (Genk), Bilzen, Kermt, Koersel, Lanaken, Leopoldsburg, Lummen, Paal, Peer, Sint-Truiden (2), Sint-Lambrechts-Herk, Tessenderlo, Tongeren, Maasmechelen.
Antwerp and Kempen: Unconfirmed reports of closed stores.
Unions have raised concerns that since 2018, new tasks in Lidl supermarkets have left staff exhausted and unable to cope, Belga News Agency reports.
“These are structural measures that we have been asking for since 2018” the CGSLB union stated. “The evolution of the shops must go hand in hand with the improvement of the employees’ working conditions”.
The common trade union blames the strike on the failure of the conciliation meeting about the new collective agreement held on Monday. Confusingly, far from reaching an agreement, both sides disagree as to whether the meeting even took place.
“We regret that the trade union partners decided on Monday to call off the meeting,” Lidl spokeswoman Isabelle Colbrandt told local media on Wednesday morning. “There was a constructive proposal on the table with numerous measures to improve the organisation for our colleagues in the shops. Unfortunately, the social partners chose to take action. Our customers, among others, are the victims of this.”
Yet this statement has been disputed by unions. “The meeting on Monday did take place (it was not cancelled as stated in the management’s press release). It was a conciliation meeting after which the social partners were unable to reach a solution,” the CGSLB said on Wednesday afternoon.
The union is threatening to step up the strike in the next few days if management does not review its proposals.