Irish fashion chain Primark has seen its labour policy come under scrutiny again in two countries: Dutch employees do not feel they get the respect they deserve, while French employees are on strike demanding higher wages.
Dutch Labour union FNV found out that most of the more than 1,000 (former) Primark employees they interviewed, often felt mistreated. "The results are absolutely shocking. Primark rules with an iron fist. A majority of the staff regularly feels belittled, intimidated when they call in sick and like they are under the continuous watchful eye of the supervisors, managers and cameras", FNV's Niels Suijker said.
75 % of respondents thinks that the workload is too high and that managers and supervisors are constantly rushing them. 54 % is worried the abundance of cameras actually invades their privacy and employees also know from experience the images are not always properly used. "When your contract is due to be extended, HR and managers often use camera images to focus on the negative and find ways to deny you your contract extension", a former employee explains.
The labour union also claims that it is extremely difficult for Primark employees to take a day off and they even risk losing pay if they are sick. "You would rather just come to work sick than to call HR and tell them you are ill, because they want every tiny detail. If you are not careful, they do not report you as sick, but turn it into a day without pay or a day of leave."
French labour unions want higher wages
Further south, in France, labour unions want Primark to pay higher wages, up to a level comparable to that of the competition. However, the chain's proposals are below the unions' expectations.
For instance, in January 2017, Primark proposed a one cent per hour wage increase for sales people and a nine cents per hour increase for managers. This was later adjusted to four and thirteen cents respectively, but the French labour unions still feel those numbers are insufficient.