Albert Heijn reaches deal to end distribution workers’ strike with 10% pay raise

Dutch grocery store chain Albert Heijn has agreed to raise the wages of its distribution center workers by 10 percent in a deal with the FNV and CNV labor unions. The workers went on an 11-day strike, which was suspended on Thursday as the two sides agreed to begin talking again. Union workers will still have to vote on the one-year deal, which starts retroactively from April 15, Albert Heijn said.

The supermarket late last week signaled its willingness to pay the 10 percent raise, and also put an end to its demands which would have negatively affected working conditions and work-life balance, CNV leader Roel van Riezen told ANP last week. This included continuing the full increase in pay workers receive when they are scheduled on an overnight or weekend shift, including extra money on Sundays, and full use of an early retirement scheme.

The pay raise will also be given to temporary workers. Those employees also get the benefit of having their schedules determined at least two weeks in advance. More permanent jobs will also be offered, and better contracts for part-time workers.

The strike cost Albert Heijn between 35 and 45 million euros in revenue, and likely led to a decrease in the company’s market share, an analyst told NOS over the weekend. Roughly half of the supermarket company’s 3,000 distribution center workers took part in the strike, which impacted five Albert Heijn distribution centers. The strikes resulted in fresh produce shortages at many Albert Heijn outlets, and as the strike continued, more goods with a longer shelf life also began to vanish.

“Good terms of employment for everyone are important to us. The negotiation result means a further improvement of our good collective labor agreement,” said Albert Heijn Vice-President of Logistics Marjon de Koning. “We are pleased that, together with all colleagues, we can once again fully focus on our customers,” she said in a statement.

Albert Heijn sent the unions an invitation last Thursday to sit down around the bargaining table beginning on Monday, and the first day of talks reportedly went well. A deal was already expected to be reached on Tuesday, when a CNV spokesperson said a deal could be announced at any moment. The two sides were still negotiating on more minor points, that required them “to dot the i’s and cross the t’s,” the spokesperson said.

The increase in pay and benefits could potentially lead to consumers facing higher prices when shopping. Supermarket expert Paul Moers speculated that Albert Heijn will be forced to factor the higher pay into its pricing. “The groceries are already expensive. They will only become more expensive,” he told ANP in an interview last week.

“The whole supermarket world is now watching, because if Albert Heijn starts paying more, you know one thing for sure: then the rumbling will build at the other supermarkets as well,” Moers said.

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