Very critical for several years against the transfer by Carrefour of numerous stores to third parties, the CFDT union, which considers that these are “local relocations” of tens of thousands of jobs, moved up a gear on Monday, by taking the CAC 40 giant to court. More than 300 stores and 23,000 employees have been removed from the workforce since 2017: since the arrival at the head of Carrefour of CEO Alexandre Bompard, the staff representative organizations, including the CFDT, have not continued to contest the transition of a significant number of stores to franchise and lease management.

These terms designate the transfer to third parties of the management of points of sale. For Carrefour, which has more than 5,000 stores in France, the movement makes it possible to maintain its commercial market share while freeing itself from a certain number of expenses, starting with salaries. In addition, the franchisee obtains its supplies from the group’s headquarters, placing Carrefour in the role of wholesaler. But this is not without consequences for employees. Once their store has “changed”, they are no longer employed by a large group listed on the CAC 40, long proud to be the leading private employer in France, but by a smaller structure, losing in the process the negotiated social benefits. within Carrefour, valued by the CFDT at 2,000 euros per year.

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“We believe that this management method as practiced by Carrefour does not meet the rules of law and that it has very serious consequences for workers,” explains Sylvain Macé, national secretary of CFDT Services. The services branch of the CFDT has therefore decided to summon the distributor before the Evry judicial court, to which the distributor’s headquarters in Massy, ​​in the Paris suburbs, depends. The distributor defends this policy by ensuring that it avoids closures for the least profitable stores, revives activity and preserves employment.

“The activity is even worse than before,” testifies Pascal Junet, elected CGT to the CSE of the Carrefour de Bercy 2 store in Charenton-le-Pont in the Paris region, transferred to rental management on May 2, 2022. “The figure of “Business is in perpetual decline and the only answer is to say that the payroll is too high.” The CFDT, also doubtful, considers that the contracts concluded with the franchised companies “do not allow sufficient results to be achieved”. “The model imposed on franchisees and tenant-managers ultimately weighs on employees” who become the only room for maneuver to improve the profitability of the store, believes Sylvain Macé.

The trade unionist joins the analysis of a former executive of the distributor, Jérôme Coulombel, who estimated in a book published in September 2023 that the distributor imposed wholesale prices or external services on franchisees and managers that were too high. An “association of Carrefour franchisees” announced in January that it had taken the distributor before the Rennes court, regretting “the significant imbalance between the rights and obligations of each party”. For Carrefour, Jérôme Coulombel’s argument is “contradicted by the attractiveness” of the franchise. The brand further argues that Jérôme Coulombel’s “professional activity” “consists, since his departure, of advising franchisees so that they join competing groups”.

Another point bristles the unions: that this policy is carried out while Carrefour spends hundreds of millions of euros to remunerate its shareholders. The distributor, which announced for 2023 a net profit of 1.66 billion euros for 94.1 billion euros in turnover, paid 481 million euros in dividends in 2023, and spent 802 million euros. euros to buy back its shares.

Beyond the single giant of the CAC 40, the CFDT is concerned to see the entire mass distribution sector “moving towards a model which is a form of local relocation, where social issues are outsourced”. Auchan recently said it wanted to move towards more franchising, a model also favored by Casino. This movement is taking place in a context of strong dynamism among independent store brands, such as the leader E.Leclerc, Intermarché or Système U, where each owner of one or a few stores is free to determine their social policy.