Even before Belgian fashion group FNG was declared bankrupt this morning, the banks have blocked its wages: it is possible employees have worked for nought last weekend.
The wages for July have been paid normally for the employees of chains like Brantano, CKS, Claudia Sträter and Miss Etam, but the banks are blocking the wages since 1 August, Belgian media report, citing both trade union ACV Puls and CEO Paul Lembrechts. Company cars and lorries were unavailable as well, as road taxes have not been paid in this new month.
The unions recognise the situation as a strike: "We do not want to send the employees into unsafe situations: if they choose not to go to work for free in these circumstances, we allow them to stay at home." FNG's management has confirmed to share that viewpoint, but Lembrechts emphasises that all CKS stores and a significant number of Brantano stores has opened anyway.
The news broke just before the bankruptcy, for which the group filed last week, was indeed confirmed. No fewer than 21 Belgian subsidiaries (a quarter of the eighty companies that make up the spider's web of the retail group) were declared bankrupt, including the stores of Brantano, Fred & Ginger, CKS, Concept Fashion, Expresso Belgium and Market Retail Belgium. Four trustees were appointed to negotiate with the banks, in order to safeguard employees' wages. According to CEO Lembrechts, the banks had frozen FNG's accounts already on 25 July, forcing the company to file for bankruptcy.
Despite the failure to save the company, Lembrechts told Belgian newspaper De Standaard that the management and the board of directors should not be blamed: "We have done all we can to save the company, we have looked into all possible options." At the moment, the only remaining option seems to be selling different parts off individually.