Americans begin layoffs in Rio and Porto Alegre

Americanas, one of the largest retailers in the country, which entered judicial recovery on the last day 19, began this Tuesday (31) staff cuts. In this first moment, the adjustments are punctual.

THE Sheet found that the layoffs began in Rio de Janeiro, headquarters of the company, which was founded in 1927 by American immigrants. The next step should be São Paulo, where the largest number of retailer stores and CDs (distribution centers) are concentrated.

The cuts now concern indirect employees, but will also be extended to staff hired under the CLT regime.

In other squares, where there are fewer outlets, such as Porto Alegre for example, layoffs already affect employees with less than a year in the company, even on a punctual basis, notes Sheet.

Contacted, Americanas has denied, through its press office, that there are layoffs. She said she “just terminated some contracts with companies that provide outsourced services” (read the full company note at the end of the text).

There are around 45,000 direct employees and around 60,000 indirect ones. The retailer owes approximately BRL 43 billion in debt to creditors named in the judicial recovery.

The president of the union and of the UGT (General Workers Union), Ricardo Patah, said he was informed by Americanas that the cut affected 50 outsourced employees in the technology area, in Rio, São Paulo and Porto Alegre.

“Next Friday [3]we will have a meeting with the company to find out if the company intends to hire new service providers or if it is already a movement to reduce third parties,” informed the Sheet. This Wednesday (1st), the union will hold a meeting with the Public Ministry of Labor to discuss the case.

According to Patah, the union has already dealt with other insolvent retailers, such as Mesbla, Mappin and G. Aronson, and remains vigilant on workers’ rights. “In Mappin’s case, in 1999, for example, it was the union that discovered that the company was facing serious financial problems. The monthly tuition deducted from his paycheck was not going to the union,” he recalls.

Companies that enter into judicial recovery generally reduce staff before the request, so the process also contemplates debts with rescission, which provide for a certain flexibility.

However, under pressure from creditors, Americanas got ahead of its plans and ended up asking for recovery before it could make any cuts. That is, the amount due to dismissed workers cannot enter the judicial recovery process and must be paid normally by the company.

Rio de Janeiro’s trade workers union said it had not received information about the layoffs at Americanas. Alongside the trade union centres, the Organization has announced the implementation of an act in defense of network workers. The demonstration is scheduled for Friday (3), in Cinelândia, in downtown Rio.

On Monday (30), the representatives of the trade unions from various regions of the country met with the Minister of Labor and Employment, Luiz Marinho, to discuss the effects of the judicial recovery of Americanas on workers in the sector.

“We already know that the layoffs have begun, but the company does not communicate and leaves the employees distressed, in a state of apprehension,” said Nilton Neco Souza da Silva, trade workers’ representative of Força Sindical and president of the Union of Employees in the Commerce of Porto Alegre.

According to the lawyer Filipe Denki, a specialist in judicial recovery, the authorization of the Justice is not required to fire the company. “The company in judicial reorganization cannot increase expenses without authorization, that is, it cannot bargain,” he says. “Even spending cuts, such as shop closures, for example, shouldn’t be brought to justice,” he said.

Americanas has also begun inviting executives in executive and board positions to work face-to-face (they had been working remotely since the start of the pandemic). The company is counting on the unpopularity of this measure to dismiss executives, which would put less burden on the company, since these positions are more remunerative.

Only administrative area workers would remain in the home office as analysts.

The layoffs arise from the need to close shops

THE Sheet noted that the cuts are expected to occur primarily due to the need to close stores. The numbers are uncertain, but it is expected that at least 30% of the stores will close their doors, to reduce fixed costs with rent and personnel.

The retailer’s latest financial statements, referring to the third quarter of 2022, indicated a chain with 3,601 stores, including the Grupo Unico franchises (Imaginarium, Puket, MinD and LoveBrands) and Local (which, together with the BR Mania stores, were part of the joint venture Vem Conveniência, dissolved by the Vibra group on the 23rd). These points, however, are not involved in judicial recovery.

But the horticultural chain Natural da Terra (79 stores), acquired by Americanas in August 2021, is undergoing judicial recovery. In addition to these points, the stores that can be closed belong to the traditional Americanas format (1,017 points) and the Americanas Express model (783 points). Together, the two formats add up to nearly 1.3 million square meters.

“In principle, the Natural da Terra network could be sold as part of the judicial recovery process,” says André Pimentel, partner at the consultancy firm Performa Partners. “But there are three critical points for this: the delay in approving the plan, guaranteeing an independent structure for Natural da Terra, since today the box, the structure and the CNPJ are together with Americanas, and finding a potential buyer” , says Pimentel , who was already working on one of the renovations carried out at Americanas, at the turn of the 2000s, by Galeazzi & Associados.

According to him, the retailer believes the network is worth around R$2 billion, something similar to the amount paid a year and a half ago. “But the market thinks it’s worth between 800 million and one billion reais. This will complicate the judicial recovery plan: the company thinks it can sell the maximum, but there are only those who pay the minimum”.

Minister says case has ‘smell of fraud’

The government should create a round table to mediate dialogues between Americanas and the company’s workers, said Minister Luiz Marinho on Tuesday, arguing that the responsible bodies will be called if it is discovered that there has been fraud in the company’s accounts.

“I can’t say there was fraud, but it stinks, it does,” he said.

Marinho said during an interview to comment on formal employment data for 2022 that the government’s goal is to protect the weaker party in these negotiations.

“Workers are victims of this process, […] I haven’t seen anyone talk about concern for workers’ employment,” he said.

Full note from Americanas:

Americanas informs that it has not initiated any employee dismissal procedures. The company has just terminated some contracts with companies that provided outsourced services. Americanas is currently conducting its judicial recovery process, one of the goals of which is to ensure business continuity for the company, including timely payment of salaries and benefits to its employees. The turnaround plan will set out what the company’s shares will be for the coming months and will be widely publicized as soon as it is finalized.

With Reuters; collaborated Leonardo Vieceli, from Rio

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