Reorganisation at KBB: 3,000 jobs hang in the balance
The Dutch retail trade company KBB and the unions have reached agreement on a redundancy programme, following the announcement in August 1997 of 3,000 job losses. Shareholders also want more influence over management of the company.
In the last week of August 1997, the retail trade company KBB (Koninklijke Bijenkorf Beheer) announced that 3,000 of its 24,000 jobs will be cut. Of these, 1,600 will come from the M&S chain in Germany and 1,400 from various KBB subsidiaries in the Netherlands. However, if KBB is successful in finding a buyer for the M&S chain, the loss of jobs will be limited. The only alternative, barring the possible sale, is closure.
The unions have been generally positive about the reorganisation plan itself. Both the Dienstenbond FNV and the Dienstenbond CNV (the unions for the service sector, affiliated to the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions and the Christian Federation of Trade Unions respectively) agree that intervention cannot be avoided. The unions, however, were "shocked" by the number of jobs at stake.
The point of departure for the unions was to avoid compulsory redundancies, allow employees to be transferred to the buyer of the M&S chain and ensure that everything possible will be done to help redundant employees find new jobs. The unions' expectation that agreement on a redundancy programme was within reach proved correct. The plan includes the establishment of a "KBB transfer foundation". Employees threatened by redundancy will be seconded to the foundation and will be free to look for a new job and receive professional support.
Almost simultaneously with the reorganisation, a group of major investors, which owns more than 11% of the company's shares, announced that it would like its own seat on the KBB supervisory board. This corresponds with a general trend towards the more active involvement of major investors in Dutch companies. However, according to the letter of the law, members of the supervisory board are not allowed to represent specific shareholders, workers, banks or any other interest group. According to Sections 2:140 and 2:250 of the Dutch Civil Code, members of the supervisory board should not represent special interests, but the interests of the company and the group as a whole.