MUNICH — Wal-Mart store workers in Germany are set to go on strike today and Saturday to pressure the retailer to negotiate a union contract.
This story first appeared in the July 26, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Germany’s services union, Ver.di, called the strike on behalf of the employees. The union said Wal-Mart has refused to negotiate and is pressuring Wal-Mart to release annual earnings figures for its German operations, but Wal-Mart is appealing a court ruling that requires the disclosure.
Wal-Mart has not performed well in Germany, and recently announced that a store in Wilhelmshaven and another in Ingolstadt will be closed. Workers at those stores are expected to walk out, but there have been wire reports that workers at as many as half of Wal-Mart’s 95 stores in Germany could be affected. The union declined to comment on how broad the strike will be. Workers in the north of Germany have been asked to go to Wilhelmshaven and those in southern Germany to Ingolstadt.
Aside from fearing further cuts, Ver.di wants Wal-Mart to join the German Employer’s Federation so employees would be covered by all aspects of the union’s salary negotiations with the German retail industry. Currently, Wal-Mart’s employees in Germany are paid according to union scale, a Ver.di spokeswoman said. However, as a non-member of the federation, Wal-Mart is not required to honor that or any other benefits negotiated by the union.
Wal-Mart is also not legally required to become a federation member, though most large German retail groups do belong. Federation members do come and go. The supermarket chain Rewe, for example, had dropped out of the federation, but recently rejoined.
Ver.di is represented on Wal-Mart’s Betriebsrat, or works committee, but is not included in salary negotiations with the American retail giant.
Wal-Mart officials in Germany and the U.S. were not available for comment.