Hundreds of protestors gather outside Delhaize headquarters after failed talks

Hundreds of protestors gather outside Delhaize headquarters after failed talks
Unions protest during a meeting of the trade unions and direction of supermarket chain Delhaize, in Zellik. Credit: Belga / Benoit Doppagne

Trade unions representing Delhaize staff once again sat down with the supermarket chain's management for a third, and unsuccessful, works council meeting. Hundreds of employees, union members and supporters have gathered outside the building in Zellik.

Despite unions' plea for "serious negotiations", the third and final works council meeting ended in another deadlock with management failing to find common ground with striking workers. "Nothing has changed, there were no negotiations", Wilson Wellens, national trade officer of the CGSLB.

"It's blocked. Management only listens to itself," Manuel Gonzalez, permanent CNE representative for Delhaize, told Le Soir during the works council meeting.

"Questions were asked and answers were given. But on the fundamental question of whether there is room for negotiation now, and what we can negotiate on, the management does not answer that," ACLVB union secretary Wilson Wellens said afterwards. "They say there is no room for negotiation and see no need for it."

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While the meeting lasted longer than the two previous ones, Cédric Claeys of ACV Food and Services stated that management maintains its position, "they do not want to hear at all what the workers have to say to them." According to Claeys, the unions are asking for an alternative: "the withdrawal of this plan [to franchise]."

Outside the distribution centre in Zellik, hundreds of protestors, unions and supporters have gathered in protest of the supermarket chain's plans to franchise its 128 own shops. According to police, at the beginning of the meeting, at least 500 or 600 people had already gathered.

Tweet translation: Solidarity with the employees of Delhaize. They are entering their 4th week of action and receive support from colleagues from Colruyt, Lidl, Intermarché and Cora. A lot of concern among those colleagues, because if Delhaize pushes through with the franchise, flexibility will increase throughout the sector.

Banners held high read, "Equal work = equal pay" or "Delhaize for sale – we demand to be heard". Posters with logos of Lidl, Cora, Renmans, Aldi and Zeeman, to name a few, can also be seen in the crowd.

For context, CEO Frans Muller, who leads the multinational retail and wholesaling company Ahold Delhaize, parent company of Delhaize, Albert Heijn, and in Belgium, earned €6.5 million in 2022.

Delhaize's record profits in 2022 had already led to tensions with labour groups in Belgium, prior to the franchising move, which reportedly went against previous labour assurances given to Delhaize workers.

On Saturday, unions called for a sector-wide retail strike to call attention to the "trend" of franchising.

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