840 mostly female employees at the Otto Group’s returns center in Hamburg had given up part of their low salary since 2006 in order to keep their jobs. But the mail order company plans to close it in the coming year.
The group management argues with the rising costs caused by the mass return of ordered goods by customers. If they are not satisfied, they can send the ordered goods back at the logistics company’s expense. The decision-makers are hoping for financial advantages from the relocation of the subsidiary Hermes Fulfillment to Lodz in Poland and Plzen in the Czech Republic thanks to the significantly lower wages there. Competitors Amazon and Zalando also use low-wage countries in the east to process cost-intensive returns there. The 840 employees of the return center pay the bill. As a semi-skilled they are left with nothing.
“The planned relocation to Poland and the Czech Republic is a scandal, especially when measured against the high moral standards that Otto postulates,” explains Heike Lattekamp, Regional Head of Retail at Verdi in Hamburg. By referring to the lower labor costs in Poland and the Czech Republic, »the company sets in motion a wage spiral that is leading downwards. The relocation is also nonsensical from an ecological point of view, because the returns are driven through half of Europe, cost time and transport capacity, and pollute the highways and the environment. These costs are passed on to the general public, ”Lattekamp criticizes. Otherwise Otto advertises with high ethical standards, especially with regard to ecological standards.
Chairman of the Supervisory Board Michael Otto (77), son of the company’s founder Werner Otto, who died in 2011, is considered a benefactor with ecological awareness in the Hanseatic city. In 1993 he founded the Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection, in 2013 he was made an honorary citizen of the city and in 2018 an honorary professor. He was represented in numerous bodies such as the environmental foundation WWF Germany.
The company (annual turnover 14.3 billion euros; around 52,000 employees), which was once founded as a mail order company, but now operates in numerous business areas, justifies the relocation of the returns center with the cost pressure: »With increasing sales of the Otto Group’s trading companies, it also increases the volume of returns. Therefore, this cost pool is becoming more and more significant and ultimately led to the planning decision that has now been made. ”
Left-wing MP Olga Fritzsche criticizes this decision: “Even if it should be cheaper in Poland or the Czech Republic, profit must not be the only parameter for a responsible company. What about the 840 jobs in these difficult times? In my opinion, the Otto Group is not living up to its responsibility in any way. «She calls on the SPD / Green Senate to work to keep jobs.
The employees of Hermes Fulfillment have waived up to twelve percent of their collective wage since 2006 because they trusted that the location would be preserved, explains unionist Heike Lattekamp. »The Hermes colleagues earn around 13 euros an hour, which is not exactly a lot. Even with full-time employment, this leads to long-term poverty in old age. “The company claims” that all alternatives have been examined. We doubt that. ”
Verdi wants to continue to support the workforce’s fight to keep their jobs. On Monday there was a rally on the company premises in Hamburg-Bramfeld. Regarding the chances of success of the fight, Lattekamp explains: “Whoever fights can win; who does not fight has already lost. For example, we succeeded in preventing a Karstadt / Kaufhof branch from being closed in Hamburg. And we’re currently fighting to save another branch. ”