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Delhaize unions present terms of “Christmas truce”
Unions representing staff of the supermarket chain Delhaize have presented their members with the terms of a Christmas truce lasting until January 6 – a cessation of hostilities in the long-running battle over restructuring.
Last summer, the Belgian supermarket’s management announced a restructuring plan that would involve closing 14 of the 138 stores under its own management across Belgium, and the loss of 2,500 jobs. Franchise stores would not be affected.
The announcement led to strike action at stores and at distribution centres, which left many shops with empty shelves for weeks after. The latest actions took place last Friday, when staff at 18 stores downed tools as union representatives were in the last stages of talks that continued from 9.00 on Friday to 17.30 on Saturday.
The details of the proposed agreement are still not known, but it was described by one union representative as “a coherent whole” that will be presented to the membership in its entirety. Approval will be on the basis of a majority vote of 50% plus one vote.
While a result is awaited, unions have agreed a sort of Christmas truce until 6 January, promising no further industrial action in the crucial end-of-year period, a peak time for sales. Delhaize issued a statement promising that “customers will be welcomed for their end-of-year shopping during the coming weeks in a serene atmosphere”.
The cease-fire is “linked to a commitment by management to 15 fundamental principles that will be the framework for future negotiations on the restructuring plan,” the Christian union LBC said in a statement. Those include, it said, an end to forced redundancies, income guarantees for remaining staff and new hires and maintenance of premiums.
photo by Sander De Wilde/CORBIS