A campaign of German union Ver.di to improve the position of workers at the Lidl supermarket chain has been successful in terms of media response. In response to the campaign, Lidl set up a telephone hotline for workers. However, the demand for works councils was not met, Katarzyna Gajewska and Johanna Niesyto conclude in an evaluation.
The campaign, run by four full-time employees at the Ver.di headquarters in Berlin, kicked off with the publication in 2004 of a Lidl Black Book documenting abuses at Lidl branches. As a follow-up, a European Black Book was published in 2006.
The fact that Lidl changed it PR strategy without giving in to key union demands may in fact hamper future campaigns because it will be more difficult to portray the company as ‘unjust’, Gajewska and Niesyto say.
During the campaign, Ver.di signed up several hundred new union members, although local organisers and activists did not feel that the campaign was successful in organising workers. Access to workers is difficult and workers are afraid of repercussions if they join a union. Overcoming these barriers is seen as the main challenge facing Ver.di.
Katarzyna Gajewska and Johanna Niesyto (2009), Organising Campaigns as ‘Revitaliser’ for Trade Unions? The Example of the Lidl Campaign. Industrial Relations Journal 40(2): 156-71.