Verdi clearly criticizes planned staff cuts

Galeria branch in Berlin

In houses that will continue, the company wants to reduce the area and could cut more jobs.

(Photo: IMAGO/Jürgen Ritter)

Dusseldorf, Essen The Verdi trade union has criticized the planned job cuts at the department store operator Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof in clear terms. “The future of the digital stationary department store lies essentially in advice and service,” emphasized Stefanie Nutzberger, who is responsible for retail on the Verdi board, in an interview with the Handelsblatt. “To do this, competent employees must be retained.”

The employees would have to bear the consequences of the mistakes made by management, Nutzberger criticized: “Their previous answers – downsizing and cost savings – are not a concept.” A future strategy that focuses on generating sales is crucial.

From the point of view of experts, the staff in the branches on site is a decisive factor. Significant differentiation must be excellent advice on the one hand and careful curating, i.e. selecting and putting together, of the range on the other, says Johannes Berentzen, Managing Director of BBE Handelsberatung. “You need good staff for both,” he warns.

Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof: Verdi fought with the employees for every job

Verdi board member Nutzberger also emphasizes that a “department store with service and advice – i.e. high personnel competence and high staffing levels” – could be serious competition for pure online trading. Verdi is therefore fighting with the employees for a viable future concept and for every job.

As reported by the Handelsblatt, the downsizing at the ailing trading company is likely to be even harder than previously feared. Galeria apparently plans to cut more than 700 out of 1,900 jobs at headquarters. Thousands of employees in the branches are likely to lose their jobs. The company has not yet commented on how many jobs will be eliminated.

Because it is not yet clear how many branches the retailer will continue to operate. Some of the branches that Galeria wants to close could instead be taken over and continued by other operators. It shouldn’t be clear until March, when Galeria wants to announce which stores will be closed. The company filed for bankruptcy under self-administration at the end of October 2022 under the protective shield procedure.
>> Read also: Which branches of the Galeria renovation could fall victim – and which not

However, Galeria has already announced that jobs could also be cut in the branches that are to be continued. “There will also be personnel changes in continuing branches,” said a Galeria spokesman when asked by the Handelsblatt. In principle, however, Galeria will try to announce as few terminations as possible.

Galeria employees complain about the shortage of personnel

Employees are already complaining that the workforce is so low that they can hardly advise customers. “Even in the better locations, the workforce is so scarce that you can’t thin it out much anymore,” complains a seller. In many branches there are only two Galeria employees per floor.

A look back at the time before the merger of Karstadt and Kaufhof in 2018 shows how much Galeria has already reduced staff. Before the merger, the two companies had a total of 175 locations and more than 30,000 employees. Today there are still 129 houses, but only a good 17,000 employees.

Stefanie Nutzberger

The Verdi board member warns that downsizing and cost savings are not a concept.

(Photo: press photo)

Some younger salespeople have already said goodbye because of the uncertain future prospects and are looking for new jobs, according to employee circles. Fatalism had spread among the rest of the workforce. Many of the over-50s are betting that they would be accommodated in the planned transfer company for at least six months after the end of the notice period.

The works council wants to keep a close eye on the number of staff in the branches to be continued, but has not yet commented. The chairman of the general works council, Jürgen Ettl, said when asked: “An actual objective assessment can only be made after the facts have been established.”

More: Galeria employees face severe cuts

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