image: Ellen Joncheere (HRD Antwerp)
Diamond inspection and certification lab HRD Antwerp dismissed nine employees on Monday. These are personnel from the ‘Equipment’ department in Lier and some people from the management in Antwerp. The procedure comes as no surprise. Parent company AWDC gave the green light in February for the restructuring plan of HRD’s new top woman Ellen Joncheere. That plan was thwarted by the corona crisis. It brought the entire diamond sector to a standstill.
HRD Antwerp has been in dire straits for several years now. A number of reorganizations have not been successful. For a long time, however, the lab was regarded as a jewel in the crown of Antwerp’s diamond. Self overestimation and poor management led to the decline. Ellen Joncheere’s was very clear about this when she took office. “We have to bring back the right culture and mentality. The value of the name ‘HRD’ is enormous. I’m not going to surround myself with a court that this company can’t afford,” she said in an interview three months ago.
On Monday, nine of the 67 employees received their letter of notice. Among them four people from HRD Equipment, which makes and sells appliances. “We were downsizing that department. After the sale of the WTOCD to HS Technologies, there was little future perspective,” says Joncheere. The other five redundancies are in management.
What will India do?
Lab operators aren’t involved. They are currently massively technically unemployed. The Antwerp diamond trade has fallen 96 percent due to the crisis. Joncheere is looking at India now. “A lot depends on that for us. They’re in lockdown there until the 18th of May. I think it will remain quiet for us until the middle of June.”
Last autumn and winter HRD Antwerp was in the shop window. The most far-reaching bid came from Peter Meeus, who was top member of the then Hoge Raad voor Diamant from 1999 to 2006. But parent company AWDC did not go along with it and changed tack by bringing in Joncheere. “I can confirm that nothing has changed since the day my restructuring plan was approved. This company is not for sale.“