Employees' anxiety. Casino is in serious financial difficulty and the unions now fear an "unprecedented social breakdown" within the brand, after a meeting on Thursday in Paris with the management and the consortium of buyers. According to the Saint-Étienne distributor's inter-union union (FO, CGT, CFDT, UNSA, CFE-CGC), the consortium of investors who are due to take control of Casino in the first quarter of 2024 has said it "can no longer respect its initial plan of July 2023".
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The group had agreed with its creditors at the end of July on a restructuring of its debt, accompanied by a change of shareholding with a takeover by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, Frenchman Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière and the British fund Attestor. But in the meantime, his economic situation has not improved and he said last week that he was ready to sell stores if competitors were interested, raising fears of a "cut-up sale" of the group to employees.
The representatives of the consortium, Philippe Palazzi, who is called to become CEO of Casino once the change of shareholding is made, and Denis Olivennes, man of Daniel Kretinsky in France, told union representatives Thursday "support the will of the Casino group to sell all hypermarkets and supermarkets," according to the interunion.
Several candidates for takeover
This acceleration of planned disposals is explained by the economic situation of the group, which still had 200,000 employees worldwide at the end of 2022, including 50,000 in France under well-known brands such as Monoprix, Franprix or Pao de Açucar in Brazil. The buyers reaffirmed on Thursday their commitment to take control of the group, but the trade unions considered that the sale of the large formats "will inevitably lead to an unprecedented social breakdown in terms of headquarters and logistics, as well as deterioration of working conditions in the stores".
Contacted by AFP on Thursday evening, the consortium of buyers and the current management did not immediately react. On Tuesday, a thousand Casino group employees worried about the future of the retailer had already mobilized in Saint-Étienne, where the retailer's headquarters are located, and in the Paris region.
The inter-union group, which is due to meet on Friday, told AFP on Thursday that the five organisations that make up the union could "consider" new mobilisations so that employees "are respected and heard". It also intends to go Monday to the Commercial Court of Paris, where a request for an extension of the accelerated safeguard period must be examined, on the eve of a central social and economic committee of Distribution Casino France.
6000 direct jobs at risk?
Another meeting with the buyers' representatives is also scheduled for 19 December in Saint-Étienne. Despite Casino's critical situation, its stores are attracting interest and the group says it has received several expressions of interest. Auchan and Intermarché are the only ones to have officially confirmed a joint and large-scale offer.
Nathalie Devienne, spokesperson for the inter-union union, told AFP that the unions had stressed that it would also be necessary to "look at the support of employees who will be transferred" to groups other than Casino if all or part of the stores are sold. "There is no job loss but their situation will be nothing like what they experienced with Casino," she said.
In this context of uncertainty, the group has set up a "system to support and listen to employees", according to a union source. Jean Pastor, CGT union delegate for the Casino group, ventured on Tuesday to estimate the number of jobs threatened: "You take the seat, 2000,300 employees, you take the eight warehouses that are leaving, we make assumptions, with 2400 per warehouse: 4400,6000. That's <>,<>, we're going to talk about maybe <>,<> direct jobs in the long term," to which are added indirect jobs.