Mestdagh, based at Gosselies near Charleroi, operates 83 Carrefour Market stores, including 52 staffed by its own salaried employees, the rest being franchise operations. In total, the group employs 2,500 people. On Monday, the group announced a wide-ranging restructuring plan, including the loss of about one in five of those jobs. The group claims the plan is necessary to combat financial losses and rising costs.
On Tuesday, staff at 23 of the group’s own stores staged a shut-down, refusing to open the stores. They also organised a picket-line at the company’s main distribution centre in Gosselies. The closures continue today.
Staff are being asked to accept the loss of 450 jobs without store closures, and the company is demanding they become more flexible in their job descriptions. Another part of the plan involves Sunday opening.
Because of the sweeping nature of the redundancies, the so-called Renault procedure comes into play. Named after a change to the law following the closure of the Renault car plant in Vilvoorde in 1997, the law lays down the obligatory conditions for negotiating major job cuts, including information to union representatives and compensation for workers involved in redundancies.
Mestdagh said it would try as far as possible to avoid compulsory redundancies, offering instead voluntary redundancy and bridging pensions. “I understand the anger and uncertainty among staff, but it was an urgent necessity for us to do something to accept our responsibility,” Guillaume Beuscart, operations director, told RTL. The group’s revenues have been on a downward slope for the last six years,falling at an increasing rate, he said, and described the results for the first quarter of 2018 as “alarming”.
Management and unions will come together for a first meeting under the Renault procedure on May 17.