On June 11th 2014, Delhaize announced its “transformation plan”. Since then, workers and management reached an agreement that job losses would amount to 1,800 members of staff, that 9 stores would become franchises and that one supermarket would close. Unions say “there is so much left to do” and they intend to keep a close eye on the new structure and the merger with Ahold. The definitive social agreement was signed mid-February, and stipulated the laying off of 1,800 people instead of the original 2,500 expected. Nine stores were to become franchises and the Courtrai Ring supermarket was to close.
In May, workers learn of a possible merger between the Delhaize group and the Dutch firm Ahold. “This is going to make people edgy,” said SETCa Secretary-General Myriam Delmée, wondering if the restructuring was planned with this in mind. “Management has always claimed that the ‘transformation plan’ was the way to guarantee a future for Delhaize,” said Delphine Latawiec, national head of trade at the CNE (Workers’ Union). “We were under pressure to remain profitable,” said Roel Dekelver, communications manager for Delhaize Belgium.
Delhaize plans to invest 450 million euros by 2017 in marketing, product mix and e-commerce, and 15 supermarkets will enjoy a refit this year, said the spokesman.
Union officials will be monitoring compliance with the commitments and recognise the need for business to pick up. They will also be keeping a keen eye on the merger with Ahold. Although the merger may pave the way to more stability within the group, Myriam Delmée is wary it may have a negative impact on workers.
One year after plans for restructuring, Delphine Latawiec maintains that “there is so much left to do”. A new ‘management-light’ set up is currently being implemented in 26 stores. “The negotiations took place ‘in a theoretical environment’; we must now see how they hold up in reality”, added the union leader.