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Schlecker stores close doors for last time

Thousands of Schlecker shops, once Germany's largest drug store chain, closed its doors for the last time on Wednesday afternoon, pushing thousands of people out of work.

Schlecker stores close doors for last time
Photo: DPA

But while the bankrupt company’s remaining 13,200 workers will now report to the unemployment office, massive questions remain unanswered about what company founder Anton Schlecker has done with his money.

The Bild newspaper on Wednesday said Schlecker signed over ownership of real estate with a value of several million euros to his wife and two children just months before filing for bankruptcy. The paper based its reporting on contracts and land registry information.

Those administering the Schlecker bankruptcy refused to comment, Bild said. “All transactions, especially those from the last four years, will be scrutinized,” one said.

The Verdi trade union, which represents the chain’s workers, said it expected bankruptcy administrators to do everything they can to get illegal transfers back. This money was important for the severance package for workers, it said.

But there will not be much to be had based from what is left in the stores, bankruptcy expert Detlef Specovius said. “The company doesn’t own 100 percent of the goods. The stores are rented,” he said.

Schlecker was once Germany’s largest drugstore chain, with 14,000 stores in Europe, more than 50,000 workers and annual sales of €7 billion, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The company filed for bankruptcy in January. Experts say it expanded too rapidly into unprofitable locations in eastern Germany and customers were drawn to competing chains DM and Rossmann.

Wednesday’s last-day sale put all Schlecker items at 20 cents – but customers at a store on the outskirts of Munich grumbled about not finding a bigger choice of items on the store’s last day, the Süddeutsche Zeitung said.

A small chink of hope remained with the possible sell-off of Schlecker subsidiary Ihr Platz.

An Austrian and a Munich-based investor are both interested in the company, bankruptcy administrator Werner Schneider said. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” of being able to sell it and another Schlecker subsidiary, Schlecker-XL.

DPA/DAPD/The Local/mw

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German Amazon workers strike on ‘Black Friday’

Amazon workers in Germany started a three-day strike Thursday timed to disrupt the online retailer's "Black Friday" sales bonanza.

German Amazon workers strike on 'Black Friday'
Signs for the Amazon strike in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

The strike, called by the powerful Verdi union, is set to last until Saturday and marks the latest escalation in a years-long battle with Amazon for better pay and working conditions.

“We estimate that around 2,500 people went on strike today, a higher number than in similar actions in the past and given the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic, it's a big success,” a Verdi spokesman told AFP.

To limit the risk of Covid-19 infections, the union said it was not staging any rallies during the strike.

Amazon in a statement said the walkouts were not affecting customer deliveries since “the majority of employees are working as normal”.

The stoppage affected Amazon distribution facilities in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Augsburg, Rheinberg, Werne and Koblenz.

Verdi has long wanted Amazon to sign on to regional wage agreements covering retail and e-commerce, and has organised numerous walkouts in recent years.

It also wants Amazon to improve health and safety at work, accusing the retail giant of not doing enough to protect staff from the coronavirus at some of its German sites.

Amazon defended its policies, saying it offered “excellent” wages, benefits and career opportunities in a “modern, safe” work environment.

The company employs more than 16,000 people in Germany and has taken on an additional 10,000 seasonal employees to cope with a boom in online shopping triggered by the pandemic.

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