New association seeks justice for former Alisuper workers “forced to take out loans”

The former employees of the Alicoop group who have been hounded for years due to debts that they say are no longer their responsibility have formed an association to “defend their rights” and hopefully get the attention of Prime Minister António Costa and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

The decision follows years of indecision and heartache for around 250 former employees of Alicoop, the group that owned the Algarve’s Alisuper supermarkets, who took on a series of loans to the tune of €1.7 million to help save Alicoop from bankruptcy in 2008.

Interviewed by SIC television, several former employees have explained that their ‘hands were tied’ and that they had to take on the loan to keep their jobs and continue providing for their families.

But all this changed when Grupo Nogueira took over the group in 2012, agreeing that the debts would be taken over by the group and that the employees would no longer have to worry about the loans.

However, when the group stopped paying back the outstanding debts and the supermarkets began closing doors, BIC bank started hounding the workers for the money owed. In fact, many workers faced ‘penhoras’ (seizures) and have been taken to court to pay the debts.

The former Alicoop workers later managed to stop the ‘penhoras’ and BIC bank even agreed to suspend debt recovery efforts “for 90 days”, back in February. But the bank remains adamant that it is the former employees who are responsible for paying back the loans.

Hoping that together they can get justice “once and for all”, the workers created an association called Associação dos Lesados do Grupo Alicoop – which loosely translates into the association of Alicoop group victims.

Its first meeting was held on Thursday at the Grupo Desportivo e Cultural do Enxerim in Silves where some of its goals were revealed, such as organising hearings with all Algarve mayors and even Prime Minister António Costa and Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

“This isn’t just about 246 workers; it is 246 families. And the president cannot show solidarity solely to the victims of fires,” said Luís Bandarra, one of the members of the association.

The association is also planning a peaceful protest in front of EuroBIC in Faro.

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