In July, Desso announced a restructuring that would involve hiving off the tufting and coating of its artificial surfaces to another producer – Domo, based in Sint-Niklaas. Desso would continue to research and develop new fibres, but the change would mean the loss of 91 jobs.
During talks with unions, it was decided that plans would involve only five obligatory redundancies, with the rest of the workers being transferred to either Desso’s textiles division or to Domo. Those who moved over to Domo would receive a €6,000 premium, keep their salaries for a year and retain their service entitlements.
But when the plan was presented to a vote of workers, they rejected it by 45 to 42. This rejects the chance of carrying on working and also, management warned, placed another 26 jobs at risk. The motivation for the no-vote is not clear. “Maybe some people had hoped for a huge redundancy payment,” commented one union representative. “But this is the textile sector, after all.”
Desso said it intends to interview the workers to find out what their priorities are, but all sides are in general agreement that the no-voters prefer to take a lump sum pay-off from Desso before taking their chances in the job market.
Unizo, the organisation that represents small business owners, said it would work in the coming months for a change to the system of workers’ rights in redundancy cases, so that the emphasis shifted away from compensation payments and towards retraining and finding new jobs.
In trying to salvage the agreement with Domo, Desso has raised the transfer premium to €12,000 in the hope of finding 27 who will accept the move to Sint- Niklaas.