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Ikea accused of mistreating German workers

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18:21 CEST+02:00
Swedish home furnishing giant Ikea has been accused of illegal labour practices, including secretly filming its workers, in a German television documentary to air on Tuesday.

The "Frontal21" programme on the ZDF channel said the Swedish furniture retailer kept illegal reports about workers' health, demanded employees regularly work exhausting shifts and subverted the works councils of its German stores.

"Ikea demands everything from its workers: complete flexibility, physical labour until exhaustion and sickness is almost never excused," Verdi union official Christina Frank told ZDF.

An Ikea spokeswoman told AFP the ZDF report was "untrue" and that a full statement would be released later.

ZDF gave documents and materials it received from Ikea workers to Gerhard Bosch, a professor at the Institute for Work and Qualifications, to review.

Bosch described Ikea's practices as part of "a tight-fisted system of control that doesn't allow employees any free space."

The ZDF report comes after a wave of similar reports about unauthorized video surveillance of employees by German retailers including the discount chain Lidl and Balzac, a chain of coffee houses.

Ikea has 43 stores in Germany and employees 13,700 workers. Ikea's German operations reported sales of €3.2 billion (5.9 billion dollars) in 2007.

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