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Retailer calls on 'grey strike-force' of retirees

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Photo: DPA
09:54 CEST+02:00
A German online retail firm has set up a “grey strike-force” of retired employees to work on special projects when regular staff cannot cope. They will work for up to 50 days a year, but unions warned of a dangerous precedent.

"They will help to close certain gaps in the working process," a company statement said of their new old employees in Otto Group’s new subsidiary firm Otto Group Senior Expert Consultancy.

The company said that the move was a reaction to Germany's ageing workforce.

"This is our way of keeping abreast of the demographic transition and the resulting lack of skilled workers," Nicole Adami of Otto Group said in Thursday's edition of Bild newspaper. "We value the all-round knowledge of our older employees."

Though the company only announced its new subsidiary on Tuesday, it has already been running for nearly three months. "We founded the company in May, and did not advertise it," Adami said. "We already have 20 applications, and five employees are already working."

The company is headed by Sandra Widmaier, director of Otto Group's personnel department.

"Former employees who are now retired often enjoy the feeling that they are still useful, and enjoy the opportunity to earn a bit of extra money to top up their pension," she told Die Welt newspaper.

"As a company we use their experience and performance standard, plus they mostly don't need any training time."

She said the pensioners' know-how would be particularly useful in the IT department when the company makes transitions to new computer systems.

The pensioners will work as little as three or four days at a time on specific projects, to fill in when the company has personnel shortages.

Applicants must be at least 65 years old, have a work history with Otto Group and be prepared to accept a limited contract.

The German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) has welcomed the subsidiary in principle, but warned against such moves becoming standard. "We need to be extremely careful," said DGB Hamburg chief Uwe Grund. "What shouldn't happen is that grandpa works, the daughter can only get part-time work, and the grandson isn't given a job after his training."

Grund also pointed out that companies have a tendency to exploit limited hours' contracts. "They are abused on a large scale to force long-term employees out and impose low wages," he said.

The Local/DAPD/DPA/bk

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