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ISSUE 74 page 4

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LiDL under union fire for secrecy in Finland

Post-Christmas bonus for Lego workers

FINNISH NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION (NGO) Finnwatch is stepping up its campaign to persuade German-based supermarket chain LiDL to reveal the details of its supply chain. The other main grocery companies, the government and NGOs last year signed a memorandum promising to follow United Nations guidelines but LiDL pulled out. The company cited its international policy and the need for competitiveness as reasons for maintaining secrecy. But Finnwatch executive director Sonja Vartiala, writing in the Finnish Metalworkers’ union journal, insists ‘We do not know how LiDL’s buying policy affects the daily life of workers in developing countries, but we will find out soon enough’. Finnwatch, which has a number of trade unions as members, has made several reports on how companies doing business in Finland are operating in developing countries. Ms. Vartiala acknowledges that some complaints about the campaign had been received on the basis that LiDL was challenging the bigger local supermarket companies and was good for consumers. However, her article informed readers that, worldwide, LiDL is one of the biggest retail grocery groups with a turnover seven times larger than the biggest private Finnish firm, K-Group. A petition, including images of LiDL shops uploaded by Finnish citizens, will be presented to the company; ‘We want to send a message to the head office of LiDL that this kind of secrecy does not go down well in Finland’ says Vartiala.

LidLCampaign

The photo upload page for Transparent LiDL

AN UNEXPECTED CHRISTMAS PRESENT appeared in the January envelope of workers at Danish toy company Lego this year. An extra month’s salary was found by owner, and richest Dane, Kjeld Kirk Kristansen from his fortune of 65.1 billion kroner. The money forms a special payment for great company results over the last 10 years according to CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, ‘a result of the hard work that more than 15,000 Lego employees around the world have done’.

 

LegoOffice

A Lego office

Home population shrinks as Bulgarians send money home

Six-hour day spreads in Sweden

EMIGRATION FROM BULGARIA HAS reached such a pitch that workers abroad now outnumber those at home according to the country’s National Statistical Institute. 2.5 million, most of whom left after the fall of Communism 25 years ago, now labour in foreign countries. The domestic work force has decreased to 2.2 million after between 13,000 and 24,000 Bulgarians emigrated each year in the last decade; 55% of them were aged between 20 and 29. The remittances that they send home, which the central bank estimates at 12.2 billion leva ($6.6 billion) between 2004 and 2013, are vital to the economy. This figure is likely to be an under-estimation as it only includes bank transfers over €2,500. A fall in the birth rate has compounded the effect of emigration to result in a fall in the country’s total population from 9 million in 1985 to 7,365,000 in 2011. The more pessimistic estimates anticipate this dropping to below 5 million by 2050. The good news is that the country has been attracting foreign investment in recent times. The Netherlands was the highest spender, injecting €7.7 billion over ten years.

 

 

NEARLY TWO YEARS AGO THE EUROPEAN REVIEW (issue 67) reported on an experiment at Gothenburg council in Sweden where a group of workers had their hours reduced from seven to six a day but retained their normal pay and were compared with a ‘control group’. Now, this practice, which claims to reduce sick leave, increase focus on the job in hand and boost energy levels, has spread to other employers. A retirement home. several Toyota service centres and an app developer report less conflict and happier staff getting more done in a shorter time. Linus Feldt, CEO of Filimundus says, ‘My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office’. He asks staff to stay off social media and tries to minimise meetings as much as possible. Toyota have reduced staff turnover and found it easier to recruit while the retirement home have taken on 14 extra employees to cover the lost hours but still hope to make up for this in improvements to morale and patient care. At the other end of the scale there is research to show that those working over 55 hours a week are 33% more likely to suffer a stroke and bear an increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to the ‘normal’ 35-40 hours-a-weekers. The University of London study that collated the data also found poorer mental health among women who worked more than 49 hours.

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