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Retail: Unions and employers agree rules for food shopping

Unions representing retail workers and Comeos, the retail industry federation, have agreed on a set of rules to be put into force for the protection of shop workers during the latest Covid-19 crisis.

The federal government has already set out the rules on opening times and on what supermarkets may and may not sell.

The new rules are a matter of internal order, and set out how shops will manage passengers inside the stores.

The rules include:
• All shoppers must be alone, unless accompanied by a child or a person who requires assistance;
• All shoppers must use a trolley, regardless of the size of their purchase. The supermarket trolley has turned out to be a useful instrument of social distancing;
• Management will employ additional staff where necessary;
• All spaces, whether open to the public or restricted to staff, will be cleaned scrupulously;
• Stewards will be posted at entrances to ensure the rules are observed.

The agreement was “a real sign of recognition” of the rights of staff to protection, said Delphine Latawiec, national secretary of the union CNE Commerce. The measures will male obligatory what where previously only recommendations, she said.

In addition to the general measures, the two sides also agreed staff would receive a premium of €500 in recognition of their efforts so far in the current second wave, as well as the work that has yet to come towards the end of the year.

“This was a necessary step for the recognition of the importance of the work carried out by the tens of thousands of workers in the trade in the eight months of the Covid crisis,” the two sides said in a joint communique.

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Supermarkets are allowed to continue to open under the latest set of protective measures, but the larger stores are not allowed to sell goods considered non-essential, like electrical goods and clothing. The reasoning was that supermarkets need to open to sell food and essential products for personal and home case, and should not be allowed to profit from the enforced closure of other shops that sell electrical equipment, kitchen supplies, clothing and so on.

The rules agreed by Comeos and unions so far only concern food retail. Rules for the other retail outlets that have to close – but which may offer delivery or click-and-collect – are still under discussion.

“I am very happy we have managed to find a balance between additional security measures for customers and staff, an additional premium for the efforts of store staff and ensuring social peace in the companies for the coming months,” commented Dominique Michel, CEO of Comeos.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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