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Germany’s Deutsche Post faced criticism Monday for penalising short-term employees who call in sick too often, with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz urging the logistics giant to change the practice.
The controversy comes after Deutsche Post admitted on Sunday that one of the criteria it used to decide whether a fixed-term employee should be granted a permanent contract was the amount of sick leave taken, confirming a report in the Bild am Sonntag daily.
Workers who have been off sick more than six times or have racked up more than 20 sick days over a two-year period are dropped from consideration, according to Deutsche Post’s internal rules.
‘To the extent that we can influence it, we will respond immediately to see the practice changed,’ Scholz told German broadcaster ARD late Sunday.
‘Those who hold a seat on the supervisory board for us will respond… talks have already been agreed,’ he said.
The German government owns a near 21-percent stake in Deutsche Post through the state development bank KfW. A finance ministry official and a KfW representative each hold a seat on the company’s supervisory board.
A Deutsche Post spokesman told AFP on Monday that the firm was ‘in regular contact with our main shareholder’ and fully intended to ‘respond to the questions’ asked.
The spat comes at a time when the government is pushing employers to clamp down on the proliferation of precarious, fixed-term contracts that are popular with bosses but leave workers with little job security.
Reiner Hoffmann, head of Germany’s DGB trade union federation, said Deutsche Post’s actions were ‘morally reprehensible’.
The country’s powerful Verdi union meanwhile welcomed Deutsche Post’s efforts to switch staff from short-term to permanent contracts, but said such decisions should be based on ‘individual assessments’, not blanket criteria.
Deutsche Post workers are also judged on any traffic accidents they have been involved in on the job, and how long they take to finish their routes.
The postal delivery group defended its criteria, saying they were ‘neither arbitrary nor intransparent’.
It also said that it moved 9,000 employees into permanent positions last year alone.