Delhaize strikers cannot prevent access to shops, court rules

Delhaize strikers cannot prevent access to shops, court rules
Credit: Belga / Benoit Doppagne

A Hainaut court, Mons division upheld its decision on Wednesday to prohibit the blocking of Delhaize shops or depots by trade unionist and activist protest actions.

After weeks of protest actions after the supermarket chain announced its franchising plan, Delhaize obtained a strike-action ban in April, which was extended in May. Following the order, bailiffs were sent to supermarkets when protestors were blocking the entrance, resulting in arrests.

The unions claimed that the methods had infringed on their right to strike. However, Delhaize had stood by their claim that the orders were justified because the pickets infringed on the freedom to trade.

"The question here is not to debate the right to strike, which Delhaize has never questioned, but to remind us that strike or not, labour dispute or not, not everything is allowed," Delhaize's lawyer stated. "These movements infringed on Delhaize's right of ownership, were contrary to its freedom of trade and industry and contrary to labour law."

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The court, acting in summary proceedings, ruled in favour of Delhaize, much to the frustration of the unions.

In March, the group's management announced during an extraordinary works council meeting its intention to franchise all the shops still under its own management (128 out of 764). Trade unions sprang into action, demanding changes to the plan as franchising could result in lower wages and weaker working conditions for staff.

Yet so far, every works council meeting has ended unsuccessfully, with the most recent one ending as union concerns were once again not taken into consideration by management.

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