Striking Albert Heijn workers reject 10% raise offer; Grocery prices could rise higher
The FNV and CNV labor unions rejected a new wage offer from Albert Heijn that would increase distribution center employee pay by 10 percent. Workers at distribution centers serving other supermarkets could ultimately go on strike as well, which may lead to an increase in grocery prices, said retail and brand expert Paul Moers.
Albert Heijn made its latest offer on Monday evening, but the unions turned it down, according to a spokesperson for the supermarket group. She said she was “extremely surprised” by this.
However, Albert Heijn did not paint a full picture, and their disclosure is "incorrect," said the FNV without going into further detail. “The first priority is now to inform our members well,” said FNV manager Levin Zühlke-Van Hulzen. He did not want to say more when asked to comment on Tuesday.
The strike began on April 23 after negotiations on a new collective agreement failed to progress. The employees of Albert Heijn’s distribution centers want higher wages to compensate for the high inflation levels in the Netherlands that have lasted for over a year. According to unions, the supermarket has offered wage increases that are far too small, and have demanded a minimum 10 percent increase in a one-year deal.
The unions also want guarantees that the working conditions for new employees will not be degraded. Albert Heijn, for example, wanted to reduce additional wages paid to workers who show up on Sundays.
“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,” said supermarket expert Paul Moers.
Should Albert Heijn pay more money to its employees, this will then fuel inflation, he speculated. “Albert Heijn has no choice but to factor this into the prices. The groceries are already expensive. They will only become more expensive,” said Moers.
He pointed out that the FNV is increasing the pressure, building momentum with striking workers who have been able to get more workers on their side. "And you get a moment when it becomes unmanageable." He added that the real danger lies in the union workers blocking the gates at the distribution centers and preventing vehicles from leaving.
Hours before the CNV and FNV rejected Albert Heijn's offer, Moers said he did not think that Albert Heijn will let it get a point where the workers create a blockade. "Albert Heijn is doing everything it can to keep in touch and is looking for a compromise.”
Meanwhile, the situation in supermarkets is becoming increasingly dire. “I am hearing on all sides that the store shelves are becoming empty. Albert Heijn is clearly starting to feel the pain.” According to Moers, customers are now beginning to leave Albert Heijn and shop at other grocery stores.
Reporting by ANP