COVID-19: Unprecedented collaborations in the retail sector

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A HIGH TENSION SITUATION

In lieu of the coronavirus health, social and global crisis, the retail food sector is subject to unprecedented tension: more motivated than ever, it is and will remain the main source of basic necessities. However, the variety of protective measures implemented for employee benefit, such as threats to retirement rights, the call for low value-added activity jobs (order preparation, etc.), puts pressure on the sector. In New York, Amazon warehouse employees are planning to go on strike to force their employer to implement appropriate health protection measures.

 

 

A CALL FOR SOLIDARITY

Where the crisis leaves us floating in a pool of unknown, both on a national and local level, we are witnessing a number of new collaborative initiatives emerging, sometimes even between competitors. Initiatives to help those most at risk, or to limit the risks. For example, giving caregivers quick access to food supplies like Carrefour, which enables hospital staff to avoid waiting on line at checkout.

 

We have chosen several leading examples:

 

 

Delhaize & Colruyt partner to deliver food shopping to hospitals

An intriguing idea in these troubled times to strike a unique partnership between two historical Belgian distribution competitors. Delhaize and Colryut are joining forces to deliver food shopping to hospital staff close to their place of work. An appealing idea, however with a complex implementation, notably a robust logistical organisation necessary for successful delivery.

 

The roll-out was near the Antwerp University Hospital: caregivers were asked to book ahead of time on Delhaize’s website. Their groceries were delivered to them free of charge nearby. The service is provided by Solucious – the group’s foodservice specialist, which supplies food products to professional clients – based on the assortment offered by the Colruyt Group. The service is centralised in conjunction with the hospital’s logistics department in order to decrease processing time and guarantee the necessary precautions.

 

 

Mc Do & Aldi mutualize their staff for a limited period of time

While the Aldi employees are particularly in demand, McDonald’s staff has been reduced to those responsible for online and drive-through orders.

 

A national effort has been put in place through a “personnel pact” allowing McDonald’s employees to help Aldi’s understaffed teams.

 

The temporary contracts allow employees to return to their initial position once the crisis is over; the objective is to find quick solutions to guarantee food supply to all Aldi branches, on a national scale.

 

The salary offered by the discounters, as well as Sunday work, could bring in extra money for the employees. The CEO of McDonald’s Germany advocates a “win-win solution” to the crisis.

 

 

Amazon & Lyft: together for employment

Lyft, a distribution company specialising in non-food products, which faces difficulties due to containment measures, has partnered with Amazon to offer their employees various positions.

 

From joining the delivery staff, particularly in the food sector, to working in the warehouses and in order preparation, Amazon has opened its doors.

 

This is an important human windfall at a time when Amazon is accused of not guaranteeing ideal protection conditions for its employees.

 

Lyft employees can now apply directly on a dedicated section of the Amazon website and benefit from advantageous salaries.

 

The company states that no very specific experience or CV is required to be able to apply: total openness or misplaced opportunity?

 

Carrefour and Uber Eats join forces to provide home deliveries during the lock-down

Starting 6 April, the two brands joined forces for large-scale deliveries, first in the Paris region, then nationwide.

 

What could look like a “classic” partnership – for example, Carrefour’s partnership with Gloco – for simplified delivery, seems to be an almost ” mandatory ” shift in scale due to the exceptional measures in place in France.

 

The orders are supplied by Carrefour, while the deliveries will be made by Uber Eats: the objective is to “combine the strength of Carrefour’s preparation stores and the agility of the Uber Eats application”, says the digital and e-commerce director of the brand.

 

We can imagine an underlying shared business model.

 

 

With the Covid-19, China invented the “self-service workforce”…

A similar initiative in China, where the “distribution giants”  are inviting traditional businesses employees (restaurants, etc.) to join the effort in trades with potentially lower added value, requiring a large increase in manpower (order preparation, delivery, etc.).

 

Alibaba and JD.com, for example, are borrowing employees from the restaurant industry, or from other trades that are likely to be in difficulty (local shops, karaoke bars, etc.).

 

In China, the phenomenon is taking on massive proportions: can we talk about “self-service labour” as we used to talk about uberization? We shall have the answer once everything is back to normal…. Or the day after.

 

From a legislative point of view, in China, these initiatives are said to be “framed” by programs to protect wages and social insurance benefits – on behalf of the main employer: this is what the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is committed to.

 

For example, the Freshippo company, owned by the food giant Alibaba, has employed former employees of restaurants and karaoke bars in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities – the same thing with 7Fresh, a branch of the JD.com group.

 

These “sharing” programs officially allow employees to belong to two companies at the same time. Freshippo thus pays those on loan, who are still under contract with their original employer.

 

 

In conclusion,

  • Lack of manpower, logistics and distribution disruption, import shortages… The Covid-19 crisis is causing fresh produce shortages, even if the shortage threat does not yet loom large in France.
  • The second threat is the lack of personnel needed to supply fresh produce. Food processing (slaughterhouses, packaging, preservation, etc.) is an industry that requires a large number of employees; the contamination risk between employees is therefore high. It is essential that everything possible can be done to protect people working in this sector.
  • During harvest time, European fields also depend on a massive, flexible and cheap labour force. Most of these seasonal workers come from Eastern Europe and North Africa. But with borders closed, the European Union risks having to do without this shadow army, which is essential to agriculture.
  • This period saw the birth of new, virtuous partnerships… However, it remains to be unseen how these contractual changes are likely to shake up, with force, the employment systems in the countries impacted.
By Laure Barillon, Altavia Nativ & Thierry Stricker, Altavia Watch

 

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