The announced closure of a distribution centre in Nivelles causes strikes in the entire supply chain of Carrefour Belgium. The retailer has to deal with empty shelves in its supermarkets as a result. Franchisees are angry, Walloon politicians increase the pressure.
Last week, the news struck like a bolt from the blue: Kuehne+Nagel, a logistics subcontractor for Carrefour Belgium, wants to close its warehouse in Nivelles. The logistics service provider cannot make the distribution centre - that it took over from Carrefour in 2005 - profitable and wants to deliver dry foodstuffs from Kontich and fresh foodstuffs from Kampenhout. There is a threat of collective dismissal for 549 employees.
The news led to fierce reactions. In Nivelles, employees immediately laid down their jobs and colleagues in other distribution centres are following suit out of solidarity. Strikes also broke out in Kontich, Sint-Katelijne-Waver and Willebroek. The consequences were quickly visible: the shelves are as good as empty in the Carrefour supermarkets, in all departments: food, fresh, frozen...
At least until Wednesday
The trade unions have decided to stay on strike until at least Wednesday: a meeting between the trade unions and the Walloon government is scheduled for then. The conflict also gets political, because Carrefour would now only have distribution centres left in the North of the country.
Walloon Minister of Economy Willy Borsus expects a signal from the retailer: "Carrefour is very present in Wallonia. I cannot imagine that it does not even have a logistics centre in Wallonia, while many of its competitors do. The Walloon government is ready to mobilise all its efforts starting next week", he told RTBF on Sunday morning.
Franchisees expect solution
The conflict is not at all to the liking of the independent franchisees of Carrefour, who account for more than half of the turnover at the food retailer. They see their customers leave for the competition and fear for the image of the retail chain.
Aplsia, the association of independent food retailers, points out that entrepreneurs who are now forced to obtain their supplies elsewhere cannot adjust the selling prices in their stores. The organisation regrets the lack of communication by Carrefour since the announcement by Kuehne+Nagel and is counting on a quick and efficient solution.
"We are trying to minimise the impact on our customers," responded Carrefour spokesperson Aurélie Gerth, who could not comment further on the social conflict.