Most of the 128 integrated Delhaize stores in Belgium have embarked on a week-long strike. The employees were “shocked” to hear that the Ahold Delhaize subsidiary plans to sell all its Belgian stores to franchisers.
When Delhaize’s Belgian management announced plans to sell all its integrated stores in Belgium to franchisers, staff in dozens of stores ended their shift prematurely. Soon, 114 of the 128 stores had their doors closed to customers.
Wednesday and Thursday saw most stores keeping their doors closed. While it is not officially certain that the strike will continue to the next meeting between management and unions (planned for next Tuesday), trade union CNE told Belgian newspaper De Standaard that it the industrial action would last until Monday evening. The news that Delhaize is offering free home deliveries to compensate customers for the closed stores, did not help to calm down the social tensions.
The latter is only possible because the strikes are limited to the integrated stores: the head office and the warehouses are continuing to operate as normal. This is remarkable, as the head office is the only place where job cuts are already confirmed. The chain commented on the matter that a number of functions will be superfluous due to the move from integrated stores to franchised ones, but promises to limit job losses as much as possible.
Delhaize’s management also repeated its promise that all staff will be taken over by the franchisers and that they will all maintain their current labour conditions – as this is a legal obligation after an acquisition. It remains to be seen, however, what these conditions precisely will be as the chain has unilaterally ended the collective agreement last month. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether all stores will find a new owner in the first place.