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Labor Group Accuses German Supermarket Chain of Mistreating Staff

BERLIN - German low-price supermarket chain Lidl has been accused by a labor organization of “grossly mistreating” its store associates by allegedly forcing them to do unpaid work, subjecting them to routine interrogations for suspected theft, and refusing to allow bathroom breaks, according to press reports.

Verdi, the shop workers' trade union, made the complaints against Lidl’s management in a "black book" report based on interviews with some of the company's 151,000 employees over more than a two-year period, according to a report in The Independent.

In response, Lidl asserted Verdi’s campaign against the chain was supported by "anonymous defamations." Lidl also accused the labor group of deliberately singling it out because the chain has trade union members at only a handful of its 2,500 supermarkets in Germany.

Lidl said it had dismissed 20 shop managers after complaints from shop staff, and denied it obliged its workers to do unpaid overtime. However, the retailer defended its policy of staff searches. "Despite rigorous checks, losses due to theft by customers and shop staff amount to [$332.75 million] a year," the company said.

"The company's business success goes hand in hand with dreadful working conditions for its staff," said Franziska Wiethold, a Verdi board member. The Verdi report cited Lidl workers who spoke of a "climate of fear" at the stores.
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