US retail giant Wal-Mart has played down reports that plans to restructure its Chinese operations could be derailed by opposition from employees and their union representatives.

The company, which currently operates 147 outlets in the country, intends to eliminate a layer in its current management structure. Employees affected by the move will be given the option to relocate to other Wal-Mart stores.

“The background of this decision… is to better support the company’s robust growth plan while optimising the existing store management structure. By eliminating a layer in the current management structure, we can enhance productivity and, more importantly, provide these associates management opportunities in the new stores, thus supporting the business growth,” a spokesperson for Wal-Mart’s Chinese business told just-food.

According to a report in the China Daily newspaper, labour unions are resisting the proposal because a large number of employees do not want to relocate.

While the Wal-Mart spokesperson acknowledged that discussions with labour representatives are “ongoing”, he added that the company had made progress in the negotiations.
“There have been discussions with associates regarding how to achieve these goals in the most optimal way…. I can’t comment on “union opposition” because the fact is that we have actively engaged the union and local government especially in Shenzhen where most of the discussions are taking place. And there have been good common understanding on the decision,” the spokesperson said.