March 18, 2005
According to workers at Wal-Mart stores in Germany, the giant retailer is attempting to impose a code of conduct on employees, complete with a secret informant hot line. Workers are under threat of job loss if they fail to report co-workers of suspected code violations.
It isn’t lost on the Germans and other Europeans that not so long ago communists in East Germany relied on informant machinery run by its infamous security force.
One of the provisions in the company’s code forbids intimate relationships among co-workers, and requires employees to inform on each if they suspect violations.
Ulrich Dalibor, head of German union ver.di’s retail trade sector, charged Wal-Mart with a serious violation of German law by issuing its ethics code before consulting the worker-management councils. Under German law, employee-management councils must agree on a wide range of workplace policies.
Charging Wal-Mart with employing a double standard, Dalibor said that while the company imposes a code of conduct on employees, it abstains from imposing any such standards on its own behavior.
Wal-Mart faces worldwide condemnation for choosing to close a Canadian store rather than agree to a fair and impartial settlement for wages and benefits with unionized workers. Wal-Mart has been cited by nine U.S. states for having an inordinate number of its employees receiving taxpayer provided medical assistance. The company, which has cheated workers out of pay, faces the largest sex-discrimination suit in U.S. history. Numerous other Wal-Mart actions that fail to meet responsible standards can be found at www.ufcw.org.