May 21, 2022

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Primark employees make themselves heard during protest against Damrak: 'Begging for a break'

Primark employees make themselves heard during protest against Damrak: ‘Begging for a break’

Protesters wearing FNV jackets gather in front of Primark in Amsterdam.Statue of Anna Livia de Corte

Around 4pm, a small group of protesters, some in orange jackets, gathered in front of the entrance to the Primark branch in central Amsterdam. Bystanders mainly look at the protest banners, which read “Power to Primark workers” and “More respect = short lines.”

The chain would like to lay off about 250 people, according to FNV, to hire many more employees again under worse working conditions, such as lower wages.

Several employees introduce themselves to the audience on the steps of the giant clothing store and explain why they are gathering today. “High workload, too few employees, low wages, long lines at the cash registers,” employee Albertin Chudd says through the microphone. “We just want respect and appreciation. Unfortunately we never got that.” And in between, they got a lot of applause from passersby.

Scud: “Every day I walk more than 13 kilometers in the store. You turn shit. The workload is too high.”

up wages

With this measure, the union hopes to force a higher compensation payment to employees if they are fired. For people who stay, the union wants “viable schedules and wages that will go up in the future,” says union director Linda Vermeulen. Primark now wants a wage freeze. That’s ridiculous, especially in times of inflation, Primark is a rich company.”

The union received reports from Primark employees in March about the impending layoff. In addition to store employees, managers in stores will also have to leave. In response, the union already delivered a petition to management in April, which was signed by nearly 160 employees.

Historic moment

Vermeulen is proud of this event and calls it a “historic moment”. According to her, this is the first time that Primark employees have taken action. The union manager calls the impending layoffs and a large workload “outrageous.” “You see today that the employees want to speak out. But the management is very medieval. The employees were not even allowed to take a short break during this demonstration today. Very sad.”

Employee Priscilla Wouter (30) is also present as a protester. She has worked as a full-time supervisor for several years and finds it particularly ‘disrespectful’ how the retail chain treats its employees. “Everywhere you have big workloads, but that’s not normal with Primark. When you’re normally responsible as a supervisor for one department, I’m now responsible for three or four floors. And what about management? It’s never going to help you.”

“Plus, employees have to beg to take a break,” says Wouter. So it’s time for a change. No one should treat us this way anymore.”

Primark: We understand this is a difficult time

“We understand this is a difficult time for colleagues affected,” David Swan Lach, head of the Dutch subsidiary Primark, said in writing. According to him, a social plan can be voted on through trade unions. Primark “amended that many times during the negotiation process.”

Lash said the company has also received positive feedback about this, and about “the resilience we’ve shown by listening to our employees and working together to try to keep as many of our colleagues involved as possible.”

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