Dutch unions go to court over pre-packed shrimp firm bankruptcy

Trade unions are going to court over the bankruptcy and restart of shrimp company Heiploeg in an effort to preserve worker pay and conditions.

Heiploeg, fined €27m last November for its role in a massive European shrimp cartel, went bankrupt at the beginning of this year but relaunched almost immediately as Heiploeg International.

The FNV and CNV unions say the bankruptcy was a sham. ‘At no point was production stopped, the organisational structure is the same and so are the clients,’ the unions said in a statement.

Ninety workers lost their job when the original company folded while 120 remained on the books. However, they have lost 11.5 days holiday, an end of year bonus, extra pay for working irregular hours and extra holiday for older workers, the unions said.

Advance

The Heiploeg bankruptcy was organised in advance in what has become known as a ‘pre-pack’ construction. This involves a silent receiver who prepares the relaunch before the company is declared bust.

The same construction has been used by lingerie maker Marlies Dekkers, the Nekkermann mail order group and childcare group Estro.

Court

This method of restarting a company is not yet anchored in law in the Netherlands but eight district courts are currently experimenting with it, website nu.nl reports.

Belgian union officials have also declared the bankruptcy and relaunch of Dutch-Belgian mail order firm Neckermann within 24 hours was a put up job.

The Dutch and Belgian arms of the company were declared bankrupt by a court in Breda at the end of June but several hours later, plans for a relaunch were already agreed. The next day, the company relaunched with a new website.

In addition, the bankruptcy of Dutch child care group Estro under a ‘silent’ administrator seems to have been a carefully planned operation, according to the Financieele Dagblad.

Move

Estro was declared bankrupt on July 5 and blamed the financial crisis and government cuts for its financial woes.

However, around a month before the bankruptcy Estro management moved its headquarters on paper from Amersfoort to Amsterdam, an FD investigation showed.

The move took Estro out of the jurisdiction of the tough Midden-Nederland court and into that of the Amsterdam court which was known to be sympathetic to the appointment of a silent administrator and the pre-pack option, sources told the FD.


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