Photo: Boumediene Belbachir
The retail chain Mega World, which earlier this year took over the 123 Belgian Blokker branches, which employ 670 people, is now seeking protection from its creditors. The new owner Dirk Bron has informed the works council that he will apply for the WZO procedure at the company court in Mechelen. Various union sources confirm this Monday afternoon.
The application for the WCO procedure will be submitted on Tuesday morning. The intent is to have protection from the creditors, but it remains unclear what debt it is and how big the pit is. The newspaper De Standaard reported on Monday on rent arrears that would have been repaid in the meantime, but also on VAT debts, social security contributions and withholding taxes.
The question is whether the judge will approve Mega World’s motion. “The source has already told us that if his application is rejected, he will appeal,” said BBTK representative Inge De Beul. When asked by the unions about the future of the retail chain, the Dutchman is said to have made it clear that “he wants to keep all shops open”.
The announcement of the WCO proposal came as no complete surprise to the unions. In recent months, many questions have been asked about the takeover by the Dutch businessman Dirk Bron. He has a bad reputation in his home country and even faces charges of fraud. The Belgian trade unions have also long been pushing for clarity on the business plan. “But there is still none,” says De Beul.
According to their colleague Marc Jacobs from ACV Puls, the unions are reacting for the time being. “We’ll see with which file he’ll go to court tomorrow,” it sounds like. In the meantime, the ACV has asked the branch managers not to transfer any money to the parent company for the time being. “The dumping normally had to take place today, but as an alternative measure we have asked not to do so for the time being.”
Jacobs is not yet aware of any spontaneous strike actions on Monday, “but given the situation we will support them”.