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Retailers report supply problems as Christmas shopping period begins

17:23 15/11/2021

Almost three-quarters of retailers in Belgium are experiencing delivery problems, at a crucial period as we enter the holiday season, a new survey has found.

Seven out of 10 retailers are reporting delivery delays of two months or more for some products, according to the survey of 256 Belgian stores carried out by the SNI self-employed union.

After 18 months of pandemic-caused business slowdowns, this comes at the worst possible time. In October, a major recruitment exercise was launched to find lorry drivers - as Belgium had 5,000 vacant positions.

Meanwhile, management and unions in the food trade sector have reached a pre-agreement after long hours of negotiations at a last-ditch meeting to ensure food reaches supermarket shelves in time for the Saint-Nicolas, Christmas and New Year festivities.

Unions had threatened to block all warehouses, the result of which would have been empty shelves in the supermarkets. More than 40,000 workers in the food sector were affected. These are workers whose incomes and working conditions have been seriously affected by the health crisis.

The exact content of this pre-agreement is not known. But the unions had several demands. First, a salary increase of 0.4% or more for employees of major brands such as Colruyt or Aldi which experienced increased profits during the pandemic.

They also called for the granting of a coronavirus bonus of €500 for each employee, a review of travel allowances by car to compensate for the increase in the price of fuel, and finally, improvements in safety and well-being at work.

In addition to negotiating with employers' associations, the unions wanted to be able to negotiate with individual companies, working conditions being different from one place to another.

Dominique Michel, spokesman for Belgian trade and services federation Comeos, said the agreement was fair. "The most important thing was to ensure that the companies which had difficulties during the Covid crisis would be spared by the agreement while the others who performed well could make an effort in relation to the workers. All the partners around the table accepted it. Also, in terms of expanding training and apprenticeship, everyone was in agreement.”

Photo: Charlotte Gekiere/Belga

Written by Richard Harris