Workers at distribution centres belonging to Dutch supermarket giant Albert Heijn have been on strike since Sunday, and customers have already noticed the empty shelves at some supermarkets. April 26 was initially set to be the final day of industrial action, but trade unions have told NU that the strike will continue “until it is no longer necessary”.

No end in sight for strikes at AH warehouses, Dutch unions say 

The AH strike kicked off at 5pm on Sunday, April 23 at distribution centres in Zwolle, Tilburg, Hoorn, Zaandam, Pijacker and Geldersman, which together employ around 4.000 workers. Employees and unions are demanding a structural increase of 14,3 percent in salaries. Supermarket representatives, on the other hand, have proposed a 6 percent increase in April 2023, with a further 2 percent raise from next January. 

Wednesday, April 26 was initially planned as the final strike day. However, recent reports from the Christian National Trade Union (CNV) and the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) have since said that the strikes will continue for as long as they have to. Albert Heijn has reportedly attempted to restart negotiations with representatives from the FNV and CNV, but unions state that unless the supermarket comes up with a new offer, there is little point in resuming discussions. 

Strike leading to supply issues in some parts of the Netherlands

A spokesperson for Albert Heijn has said that more than half of their supermarkets were well-stocked on Wednesday morning, at the start of that is the fourth day of strikes. Some shoppers have, however, already noticed empty shelves, mostly at supermarkets that are supplied by the warehouses in Zaandam, Pijacker and Geldersman. 

According to the supermarket, so far shops in the northwest and southwest of the Netherlands have been hit the hardest by the strike, which has predominantly led to a shortage of non-food items such as cleaning supplies and products for pets. FNV reports that Albert Heijn has brought in temporary workers to keep operations running and limit the impact of the strike.

Talking to ANP, retail expert Paul Moers said he wouldn’t be surprised if the strike had knock-on effects on other Dutch supermarkets: “Albert Heijn has about 37 percent market share, if those customers go to other supermarkets, the shelves there will also be empty.” While Moers is sure Albert Heijn will give in to the demands of the unions, he said this will ultimately lead to higher prices for shoppers.

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