Strikes at Albert Heijn distribution centers suspended; Supermarket & unions join talks

Supermarket firm Albert Heijn and the CNV and FNV labor unions will soon meet again about a new collective agreement for employees working at the retailer’s distribution centers. The new round of talks was sufficient reason for CNV and FNV to temporarily suspend the strikes, which according to the unions is taking place at the supermarket group’s initiative.

Albert Heijn wrote in its invitation that it was prepared to pay a 10 percent wage increase, and that it was ready to drop demands that would degrade working conditions, according to CNV director Roel van Riezen. “That is sufficient reason for us to call on people to go back to work on Thursday morning.”

The invitation to talk came Wednesday evening. “Thanks to the pressure from all those on strike, Albert Heijn was finally willing to comply with our demands to come back to the table,” said Van Riezen. He added that he expects that an agreement will be reached on the other points concerned.

The supermarket chain already announced on Tuesday that it was willing to pay 10 percent extra wages, but that was not enough for CNV and FNV. They also wanted to scrap the worsening position for new hires in Albert Heijn’s prior proposal. That has now been done, the unions said. According to FNV, this means that new employees will still be entitled to the full additional allowance they receive for working on Sundays, and can use the scheme for early retirement.

There are also improvements for temporary workers, whose schedules will soon be determined two weeks in advance. Shefania Sewbaks, a leader at FNV’s retail and trade division, said, “The employees of Albert Heijn have shown how important and indispensable they are. It is extremely important to us that they are appreciated for their hard work. Whether they are permanent employees or work as temporary workers.”

Albert Heijn confirmed that it has put an improved offer on the table and that this forms the basis for new consultations with FNV and CNV. The company said it was pleased that the unions have temporarily suspended their actions. “We are now going to work with all colleagues to restock our stores properly so that all our customers can do their shopping with us again as they are used to doing,” said the supermarket chain.

The parties are likely to talk again on Monday.

The impact of the strikes at the distribution centers, which started last Sunday, became increasingly visible in Albert Heijn supermarkets. The fruit and vegetable shelves and the bread racks were often much emptier than usual. Many stores were also running low on products with a longer shelf life.

Reporting by ANP

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