At the Royal Ahold shareholders meeting in Amsterdam on Wednesday, Ahold workers from America and the Netherlands criticized the company’s labour relations. Major investors expressed concerns as well. Outside, representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Teamsters, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (all from the US), FNV Bondgenoten (the Netherlands) and LBC-NVK (Belgium) handed out goody bags with a leaflet calling on the company to live up to its royal standards.
At the meeting, Shaquana Battle asked why anti-union meetings are held at the Martin’s supermarket where she works. Waqas Ahmad, who works at a unionised Giant store, told how management called the police on him when he wanted to talk to his colleagues at Martin’s about the union. Both Giant and Martin’s are owned by Ahold. Lucas Benítez asked why Ahold would not sign an agreement with the CIW to improve labour conditions of tomato pickers in Florida, while other major buyers of these tomatoes have done so. The Teamsters expressed concern about job losses at American distribution centres. Bianca Doomen asked why Albert Heijn in the Netherlands is replacing regular jobs with agency work and mini-jobs of less than 12 hours per week.
Managers of major Dutch pension funds also expressed concerns. Bram Hendriks of APG asked for more transparency on Ahold’s labour relations. Kris Douma of Mn Services asked why Ahold is sending ‘downright intimidating’ anti-union letters to its employees.
Ahold insisted that it is not anti-union and that it operates within the law. Newspaper De Volkskrant described Ahold’s response as ‘rather weak’.
Watch the webcast of the shareholders’ meeting here (for the questions, go to ‘Voting items’)