Germany: Employees protest against Karstadt department store closures in Berlin

Employees of a Berlin-branch of the department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof protested in the German capital on Friday, in response to recently announced plans to close over 60 of its stores. Workers, as well as union representatives, picketed outside one of the company's stores in the Wedding neighbourhood, holding banners and placards condemning the planned closure of six out of 11 branches in Berlin. «We are all in solidarity with you,» said one demonstrator, adding that «it can't be that you have spent 37 years, 45 years, 40 years, 25 years of your life here, that you are now on unemployment benefit one and with bad luck, in a few years, you could be on Hartz IV.» «The cost structure make it really difficult to reasonably operate such a department store,» Verdi Regional Department Head of Trade Erika Ritter said. «We need lively districts, including department stores, which is why we are standing here and fighting for every house and every job,» she emphasised. According to the trade unions, around 1,000 out of 2,100 employees could be affected by the planned closures at the stores throughout Berlin. Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller and Senator for Economic Affairs Ramona Pop had contacted the landlords of the locations earlier this week by letter, hoping to renegotiate the leases and save the businesses. The chain reportedly plans to close 62 out of a total 172 branches, as part of restructuring plans. The business was already struggling due to a general move away from department stores by consumers, but was also hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with the typically large footprint of its stores falling foul of now-lifted lockdown restrictions.

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