Open letter to Smyths Toys / Toys R Us: Stop Union Busting!

Protest against Toys R Us on 15th December 2018

Put an end to obstruction of works councils in Germany! Pay union wages! (auf deutsch)

Dear Misters Smyth, dear Anthony Smyth,

we are writing to you on behalf of the Aachen Committee Solidarity with Mona. We are a group of activists, civil rights advocates und unionists working for the protection of works councils and in defence of workers‘ rights.

Your employee Mona E. is under permanent attack as works council chairperson at the branch store in Würselen and as member of the general works council of the company in Germany. We are defending this admirable unionist against legal persecution, harassment and mobbing.

As we did not receive any feedback on our claims we will use the most sales intensive day of the year in German retail shopping to provide your customers with information about the business methods of Toys R Us and Smyth Toys. This is traditionally the Saturday before the 3rd advent Sunday, this year the 15th of December.

So far actions are planned in Berlin: Mall of Berlin, 15 th December 2018, 15:00 o’clock, Cologne and Aachen (Exact meeting points will be announced on Wednesday evening 20:00 o’clock. For further information subscribe to our english direct action newsletter: https://aktion.arbeitsunrecht.de/en/friday13 )

Background: subminimum wage & union busting

The Toys R Us staffers have been fighting since 2015 for a union contract. And for just as long, German management under the leadership of Detlef Mutterer has been proceeding against works council members.

We don’t know what you’re planning on doing with the 93 German, Austrian and Swiss stores of the bankrupt toy chain Toys R Us which you seem to have snapped up out of their bankruptcy assets for the ludicrously low price of 79 million Euros, according to financial press reports from April 2018. Just now, there are several speculations: maybe it’s a tax write-off scheme, maybe a strategic move in advance of the Brexit.

In case you have serious plans to establish Smyth Toys Superstores as a profitable business in the German-speaking regions, you should expect major opposition unless you let go of the disastrous union busting strategy of your U.S. predecessor.

Image issues: Ireland as a tax haven and home to ruthless employers

The mood in Germany right now is very precarious and unpredictable with regard to companies practicing exploitative methods, that won’t pay union wages and which attack works councils. The discount air line Ryanair came into discredit due to wage dumping and was forced to make concessions to the unions.

Another risk for you to consider is that Ireland is already in disrepute in Germany because of socially harmful and even criminal tax avoidance (Apple, Amazon etc.) as well as dubious special-purpose vehicles such as Hypo Real Estate. Do you really want that kind of bad reputation for Smyth Toys?

We have determined that since Smyth Toys bought the German Toys R Us stores in April 2018 the number of attacks on the work of works councils and democratically elected representatives has increased dramatically:

  • Three unionists are currently under attack in the branch stores at Siegen and Würselen and at the Cologne headquarters.

  • Work-release for works council tasks has been called into question and wage reductions have been threatened.

  • Management has refused legally mandated training for works council members, thus necessitating legal action to compel the assumption of these costs (i.a. in Rostock, Kaiserslautern, Harbke, Duisburg, Koblenz).

  • Management refused to provided needed working materials such as computers, printers and books, for instance in Essen, Duisburg, Rostock, and Kaiserslautern.

  • Information is being withheld from the general works council and the economic council.

In contrast to the Irish situation, in Germany works councils are legally mandated and protected by legislation. Obstruction of works councils is a criminal offense (§119 BetrVG). German works councils are an achievement of the November Revolution of 1918. One hundred years later, this institution is beyond question in our country.

We demand from Smyths Toys:

  • Stop all harassment of works council members and act in conformity to the law!
  • Agree to all training measures for works council members pursuant to the Industrial Constitution Act (BetrVG)!
  • Put an end to arbitrary wage reductions and other attacks against works council members.

Our activities before Christmas are only a start, we will continue to support works councils and employees at Smyth Toys R Us in 2019.

Very sincerely yours,

Elmar Wigand | Press spokesman, action vs. injustice at work | Contact

The letter is supported by the following groups: Aachen Committee Solidarity with Mona, National working group against workfare of The Left party, The Left party local branch Aachen.

PS:

We urge you to forego the services of the hardcore law practice Meyer-Köring in Bonn. We also doubt that your manager in Germany Detlef Mutterer is the right person for a successful fresh start. Both of them have obviously gotten in completely over their heads.

Würselen, 16th December 2017: Elmar Wigand and the real Martin Schulz (then chairman social-democrats) – protest against union busting at Toys R Us branch Aachen.

 

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