General strike planned for 22 May in defence of right to strike
Belgium’s joint trade union front is calling for a nationwide general strike on 22 May in Brussels in defence of the right to strike, with more details to follow.
The united front, which consists of unions CSC, FGTB and CGSLB, condemned "severe attacks" on such a right.
Not least among their examples is the ongoing conflict between grocery chain Delhaize and its workers, who are striking against the company’s decision to turn its stores into independently owned franchises.
A Belgian court recently ruled in favour of Delhaize management, declaring that its workers were not allowed to strike.
Pursuing litigation in response to the strike amounted to Delhaize “putting commercial law before the right to collective action, which constitutes a dangerous precedent for social movements”, the unions said.
“Today Delhaize, tomorrow who's next?” they added.
The trade union front said the grocery chain’s switch to franchising presented "a change of economic model that risks spreading to other sectors".
FGTB secretary general Miranda Ulens said that the government must adapt its Renault law (which governs procedures for collective redundancies) in response, in order to protect against franchising without social consultation.
“It is unacceptable nowadays that employers carry out restructuring without any real consultation,” said Ulens.
"By limiting themselves strictly to the legal terms, they completely ignore the spirit of the Renault law.
"Yes, there is a transition period during which the same guarantees apply. But after that, 9,000 people de facto lose their jobs with their employer."
Delhaize has repeatedly sent bailiffs to open stores and called police, resulting in the arrest of some protesting workers who refused to show their identity cards.
I still find it hard to believe that Ahold would have dared present their Dutch Albert Heijn employees a fait accompli with no prior discussions or heads-up. Why they think they can act like this with their Belgian employees is a mystery.