German chain accused of spying on staff

Chain hired private detectives and installed video cameras

German-based supermarket chain Lidl has been accused of recording employees on the job and maintaining transcripts of their personal conversations.

Private detectives hired by the retailer installed cameras to monitor employees, including how often they used the toilets, and gathered information about workers' personal relationships, health and finances, according to the German news magazine Stern.

Some of the reports submitted by the detectives included details about an employee's tattoo and commentary on which employees were "introverted" or "incapable." The reports also included detailed transcripts of conversations between employees and workers' personal phone calls.

Following the news reports, the supermarket, which has 48,000 employees, took out of series of newspaper ads in Germany saying: "We regret it profoundly and apologise explicitly if co-workers feel discredited and personally hurt by the described procedures."

The chain said it hired the detectives and installed the cameras to figure out how to cut down on shoplifting, but conceded that, although unwanted, "in individual cases, extra and in some cases personal information on employees was recorded by the detective agencies."

German trade union Ver.di issued a statement last week encouraging the employees who were spied on to take legal action against the chain.

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