Belgian supermarket group Delhaize has made its employees a new offer to soften the blow of its plans to sell all of its remaining supermarkets to franchisers. Costing forty million euros, some unions still call it “peanuts”.
With its new proposal, Delhaize wants to end the row with the trade unions hat started when the chain first announced its plans to only continue as a franchise operation – selling its last remaining 128  supermarkets – last March.
At first, the retailer only confirmed that “during the meeting, which was held in a constructive atmosphere, a draft proposal was tabled.” Spokesperson Roel Dekelver said that he “hoped that this proposal would lead to an agreement to be concluded next week”. A move towards the trade unions’ main demand, that the chain would halt its plans to sell off all 128 stores, is not on the agenda.
Each employee that chooses early retirement over staying on board with the franchised store, would be given a bonus of 10,000 euros. According to Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, this offer would be available for almost one in ten of the 9,000 current employees.
Employees who do transfer with their franchised store will receive a “transition bonus”, consisting of a basic amount of 1,500 euros and an extra 125 euros per year of seniority. As the average seniority at Delhaize is eighteen years, the average employee would therefore receive 3,750 euros: 1,500 as basic amount and 2,250 for their seniority.
The unions are divided on the matter: while the liberal union is rater positive in a first reaction – “This is not what we have tabled, but also not what the management had offered all that time ago”, representative Wilson Wellens says.
French-speaking socialist union SETCa is furious, saying that management is still offering only “peanuts”. Myriam Delmee still sticks to her three main demands: ending the franchising plan, a generous offer for those willing to leave and – rather paradoxical to the first demand – a guaranteed union representation in those stores that still would be franchised.
Dutch-speaking socialist union BBTK is somewhere in between, admitting that management has made some steps towards the unions but saying that those steps are not what they asked for. He says, however, that the proposal will be given a fair hearing by its members: that in itself would already be a breakthrough for Delhaize.