'A step backwards': Delhaize deadlock continues as unions stay strong

'A step backwards': Delhaize deadlock continues as unions stay strong
Credit: Belga / Benoit Doppagne

Another ordinary works council meeting between Delhaize and trade unions ended on a sour note, with the two sides deadlocked in disagreement over Delhaize's plan to franchise its 128 self-managed shops.

"The chain chooses to ignore people rather than listen to them. It is unfortunate that this dispute has gone on for so long without any progress," commented the ACLVB trade union representative. Police were present in large numbers at the Delhaize headquarters in Zellik.

The meeting was brought to a halt when the union representatives walked out of the negotiation as management sought to discuss its future plan instead of listening to the concerns of the trade unions, Belga noted.

"We don't have to discuss the future plan at an ordinary works council meeting," said BBTK delegate Chantal Delie after the meeting. The unions warned management that a number of collective labour agreements were not being respected. "For example, some managers are opening their shops too early or putting students/trainees on dangerous jobs in order to get around strike action." This was confirmed by the ACLVB representative.

For Wellens, Tuesday's works council may have even been "a step backwards" as the union representative does not see how agreements can be made if they are not respected.

Picketing ban will not hinder protests

The latest development in the battle between the supermarket chain and unions was the extended ban Delhaize obtained on picketing in front of Delhaize shops and warehouses in Belgium. Unions, however, have claimed that this will not hinder actions against the franchise plans.

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"It is unfortunate that Delhaize is spending time on further escalations, but the workers are still motivated to take action," said Wilson Wellens of the liberal trade union ACLVB, who alongside many other union representatives, did not expect much from the works council on Tuesday afternoon.

As previously announced, a national common front demonstration will be held on 22 May in Brussels as unions fear that what is happening at Delhaize will spread to the retail sector of Belgium at large.

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