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'Declaration of war': Delhaize pushes ahead with franchise plan despite labour objections

08:52 29/09/2023

Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize is planning to push ahead with its move to switch all its stores over to a franchise model despite months of strikes and protests.

The management’s latest proposal has been called “a declaration of war” by Myriam Delmée, president of the BBTK union.

The proposal was not approved by the union but Delhaize spokesman Roel Dekelver said: “It’s important for us to create readiness for the employees of the affected shops as the opening of the first franchised supermarket is imminent."

The first independently-owned and run supermarket will open its doors in Denderleeuw on 10 October.

Delhaize is promising that employees will keep their pay and working conditions, with a guarantee that no shops will close until at least the end of 2028.

Employees will also receive a "transition bonus" of €1,645 gross, supplemented by €125 gross per full year of seniority and a €10,000 gross bonus for those who can and want to retire early.

The proposal was rejected by three of the four unions at Delhaize, with only ACV Puls saying it wanted to negotiate further.

Delhaize said it had found an independent buyer for 32 of its 128 supermarkets. In total, some 9,000 employees will be affected by the move to private ownership.

“This decision was to be expected, but what the management does not understand is that it will create a huge disorder at the time of the transition to franchise,” said Delmée, adding acknowledgment that management did make some concessions “thanks to the efforts of workers”.

But she said that the final proposal failed to meet employees’ demands: “With the incentives to retire, or by forcing workers to resign, the company is divesting itself of the responsibility to lay off staff.”

Unions want the talks between workers and management to continue, saying too much uncertainty remains at present.

The proposals so far are “not respectful of the workers and their demands concerning the possibility of leaving with dignity for those who do not adhere to the Delhaize plan,” the CNE union said.

Written by Helen Lyons