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The end of 9-5: Colruyt and unions agree to off-hours test

© Colruyt

Unions and management at supermarket group Colruyt have finally agreed to a plan to test allowing employees to work during the hours of closing to prepare packages for the company’s Collect & Go online service.

Under the agreement, employees will be able to choose to work any hours between 05.00 and 22.00, when they will be detailed to preparing delivery packages. For those working during opening hours, tasks will remain as before.

According to the union, out of hours work carries a premium of 50%. Following an evaluation later in the year, it will be decided whether to prolong the evening shift to 23.00.

The company and unions took two hours to reach an agreement, but the delay was not entirely their own. Six years ago the government was asked to change the time at which night-shift hours began from 20.00 to midnight, to allow more flexibility for bosses and workers who were in favour of more flexible hours.

Only in 2018 came a change to the employment law, that took the problem out of the hands of government and allowed different sectors to work out the issue for themselves.

At Colruyt, as of 1 July, employees can choose voluntarily to take up an early or a late shift, starting at 05.00 for the early shift, and ending at 22.00 for the late shift.

One of the main reasons for the change is to allow deliveries for Collect & Go to be compiled while stores are closed. At the same time, the group is preparing a new distribution centre in Londerzeel near Mechelen, which will deal uniquely with deliveries.

To date, only Colruyt, Vanden Borre and IKEA have arrived at such an agreement with unions.

Meanwhile Colruyt’s main competitors, Carrefour and Delhaize, told De Tijd they prefer to deal with delivery packages in a distribution centre away from shop customers.

Colruyt’s personnel director defended the company’s twin-track approach.

In-store preparation, he said, “is the most efficient, because [stores] are perfectly equipped for it. Products arrive in bulk and the collection points of our web store are in the shops.”