International News - German unions take on the might of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart may face more staff strikes in Germany after it once again refused to sign a collective wage-bargaining agreement with union officials last week.

Workers' union Ver.di called a strike at Wal-Mart in July and it was estimated that 3,000 of Wal-Mart's 18,000 employees took part.

The union said it met with Wal-Mart Germany last week, but the US-based giant's bosses refused to consider a union-brokered employment contract for employees.

The Wal-Mart representative at Ver.di, Ulrich Dalibor, said: 'It is clear that Wal-Mart does not want a contract. We talked to directors at the company about a contract, but they told us they won't sign.'

Dalibor said Ver.di represents 30 per cent of Wal-Mart's employees in 95 German stores. The union will discuss further action in the next two weeks. A meeting of Ver.di representatives from around the country is scheduled for Monday.

He said further strikes are 'one of our options' and added that other action might include demonstrations at Wal-Mart outlets.

Dalibor believes that management at the German division is being prevented from signing a contract by a decree from Wal-Mart's Bentonville head office.

He said: 'I don't think they won't sign, I think they can't because Wal-Mart US won't let them.'

Other big retailers in Germany are involved in the collective wage-bargaining system, which is brokered via a powerful base of unions. Ver.di counts 500,000 retail staff among its membership.

Nobody at Wal-Mart Germany was available for comment.