Donate to build socialist media: We have the biggest opportunity in a generation for socialist ideas to gain ground. Help us raise £10,000 so we can rise to the challenge. Read more »
Close this message

Every Lidl hurts

The super-low prices of Lidl, Europe's answer to Wal-Mart come at a cost: the rights, wages and dignity of the company's workforce. Chris Leach reports
March 2005

Lidl is what's known as a "deep discount" supermarket chain. Translated from corporate patois, that means that low-income groups (what used to be known as working-class people) can get a week's shopping there for less than what it costs for a pot of crème fraîche in Waitrose. Now, Lidl is a rapidly expanding business, not a charity. So its low prices come at a high cost for someone. And that someone is the company's workforce in all the many locations where it operates.

Still privately owned by German entrepreneur Dieter Schwarz, Lidl is one of the fastest expanding retail companies in Europe. In addition to operating 2,500 stores and having more than 151,000 employees in its domestic German market, it has outlets in 16 other European countries and is planning to expand into Asia and Canada. Providing the impetus for this rapid growth are the sunrise economies of Mittel Europa: countries like Slovakia and Poland, where the combined privations of Stalinism and shock-treatment neo-liberalism mean that independent trade union structures are young and weak.

According to Uni Commerce, the international umbrella organisation of retail unions, Lidl is trying to copy US retailer Wal-Mart's model of "pressing down wages and benefits and squeezing as much as is possible from its personnel". Uni Commerce also castigates the company's culture of secrecy, suspicion and anti-union dirty tricks. In one instance the company reacted to a successful union recruitment drive at its distribution warehouses by reconfiguring its entire corporate structure overnight.

In the new EU member states the most famous, or infamous, allegation of Lidl abusing its workforce came to light in August last year. It was claimed that menstruating workers in Poland and the Czech Republic had to wear white headbands if they wanted to be allowed to use the toilet during working time. Of course, this very serious charge was sternly denied by Lidl's senior management. But the story had enough substance to feature in Lebensmittelzeitung, Germany's leading commerce magazine.

Bullying and intimidation are not restricted to Lidl's operations in "new" Europe. When the German retail union Ver.di opened a weblog enabling workers to report on the company's bad practices it was contacted by more than 3,500 present and former Lidl employees. The reports, which form the basis of a "black book" published by the union about the firm's tawdry employment practices, chronicle how "the company is obsessed with control to the extent that it becomes a serious violation of the integrity of its workers. Everyone is treated with mistrust, as a potential thief".

A culture of constant surveillance extends to every nook and cranny of Lidl's retail environment, with workers being subjected to frequent checks for contraband. Pockets are searched, as well as workers' cars. Even mandatory periods away from the shop floor take on a Big Brother aspect. One Finnish worker said: "Everything that is consumed at the workplace during the breaks, be it a yoghurt or a soft drink, must not only have a cash ticket taped to it; the ticket must also be signed by the supervisor."

So if you're ever in a once noble town that's fallen on hard times in this austere post-Thatcherite era you may happen upon a Lidl. Please try not to be beguiled by any of the company's weekly special deals (when I looked, it was offering a pink velour two-piece of the type favoured by Little Britain's Vicky Pollard at an amazing £5.99). Those prices may not bust your wallet, but you may inadvertently help to bust the union.

Now, I must remember to get some crème fraîche. Anybody in Islington fancy an early night?


Disarming DSEI

Andrew Smith writes about the campaign against London’s biennial arms fair and ending the worldwide arms trade

HONEYBEE 30 May 2011, 12.29

What makes you think only Lidl does these things? I worked for Toys r Us in 1993 and next from 2007-2008. The toystore searched inside our clothes at shift end and tried to confiscate one guy’s 15 year old travel chess set in case it was stolen from them. We worked through breaks and had no access to drinking water. instead having to buy water from a vending machine. At Next they don’t recognise unions and breaks are closely monitored. When they wanted to get rid of us they just changed our shifts to the middle of the night so we’d quit.I used to work at Dillons which was great but went bust. I have worked in many shops, all big names including Waterstones; none recognise unions.

Lidl's employee 1 June 2011, 14.34

I work at Lidl and it’s not THAT bad. The wage we get is actually pretty decent, with a set payrise every year, although it’s true that we work bloody hard and are expected to do a lot of overtime. And they do spot checks at the end of your shift to make sure you have a receipt for everything, but they’ve never searched my car or anything like that. And it’s not like they’re going through my handbag even, just asking do we have recipts for everything as part of their procedue

It would be nice to have a couple more workers per shift though, it’s ridiculous being down to 3 or 4 people for the closing shift!

I understand that some branches might my worse than others though, but the managers at my store are all right and it might sound corny, but there really is a good team spirit involved in just rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it. The managers actually have to work harder than us store assistants as there just isn’t enough workers for them to get away with lazing around and still closing up on time

The worst part of working here is actually the customers, some of them are really foul-mouthed and rude, and some of them really stink too!

Gabbyco 16 June 2011, 20.42

Lidl is the same as any british retailer. All are anti union, all can pick and choose there staff and all are dispensable.

Lidl don’t just cater for the low income increasingly the wealthy and the tight fisted shop there

Why 8 rolls of plenty for 3.99 a saving of 76p if you buy in two’s from Savers every little helps to borrow Tesco’s slogan

graham 27 July 2011, 13.42

lidl is not as bad as the co-op,the copo are supposed to be good to work for as they have close tyes to the union .I know who i would rather work for Lidl at least give a better wage ,and treat their staff better ,unions are only interested in taking money off you ,i should know i have worked for both .

Phaysal 24 August 2011, 11.04

I have been working for the company for seven years. What I think is everything is depend on store manager if he is hard worker, capable and responsible and he recognised needs of his staff there are no such problems like overtime, un-paid hours etc. when you talk about spot checks and presentation of receipts it’s company procedures no one want to lose money in this world why lidl do so. Owner of lidl have full right to pretect his business. Pay rate is very reasonable compare to other business operators in retail industry. Another back draw is no staff discount but company is in process to introduce in near future. I bet no other store gives you £9.50 to just sit on till and scan items how difficult it is to do so not a rocket science of course.

Brennan 22 October 2011, 22.57

Lidl force you to buy more by making you get a trolley. If you dont want a trolley full of food you carry it in your arms. Get a trolley and you end up with a till that u cant pack your food on because their isnt enough room for you to put a bag on….so you have to have a trolley. So u have to re-pack your food in the window. What a hassle to shop. I SAY to the missus, cant be bothered with the rest of the shopping we want…we will get it at ANOTHER supermarket around the corner….i rest my case…LIDL….you are a pain in the bum!!!! Sorry.

Paul 21 November 2011, 16.55

I like to think that Lidl’s prices help out the lower paid among us. Although you’ve now got the tesco’s and Sainsbury’s shoppers coming into the stores to see what the bargains are and slightly miffed that they don’t recgonise half the brands and because they don’t recgonise them then they think they’er of poor quality. I have been shopping in Lidl for years and the majority of the staff are the same people, hard working and I beleive paid a reasonable wage.
So don’t knock Lidl to much, the state of the Unions in this country is down to one thing past and present Tory governments!

Luke 5 December 2011, 17.47

so let me get this right…

based on the number of people they employ, 2.2% had complaints. I`m all for unions in the work place but I have to say2.2% isnt bad at all.

Since I was made redundant, I can no longer afford the ever increasing costs of food, so I have had to change ALL of my habbits. I used to shop at tescos and sainsburys, as a single person my food budget per month was around £100.

Now, I shop at Lidl for some things and my Local Market for all my fresh foods, and home bargains for cleaning / toiletries, and I visit a travelling butcher once a quarter and buy all the meat I require. This has halved my food budget, and whats more the food is actually fresher and better quality.

These brands you see being sold in lidle and Aldi are not cheap surplus muck, they are in fact premium european brands as my italian parents have often confirmed to me…

The trouble with people in the UK is that most are brand/food snobs. I should know, I was one too.

For Xmas this year, I`m having a Lidl Duck… £7.

Ian Dunmore 20 December 2011, 11.23

I shop at Lidl. I like the price and the quality.
I once worked for the NHS. They gave us a decent payrise one year by cutting our working hous and increasing our break times. As no one on the shop floor/sharp end took breaks at all because there was insufficient staff the end result was a much trumpeted non existant pay rise.

Ian Dunmore 20 December 2011, 12.57

If anyone from Lidl is reading this, where are the Bratwurst?
Have they gone forever like the Yellow Handbags or will I have to wait till I next visit Germany.
It’s been 4 weeks and I am suffering withdrawall symptoms.
As for Brennan, I shop on a motor bike and have no problem. You are weird mate.

jolly roger 20 January 2012, 14.40

worked there for 18 months,really heavy work and they make you feel like you are theifs,some long hours and 1 break.10 hour shifts really crap.

old employee 20 January 2012, 14.59

they really treat there staff like rubbish,they changed the workwear to long sleved polo tops,in the summer its so hot but they dont want to cant have a cold drink on the till bloody vile place.

employee 21 January 2012, 20.16

bratwurst are back. they stopped them to make room for christmas stock.

Inaki 3 February 2012, 13.34

Yes we all laughed at Lidl when they came to our town about 12 years ago. Not so many of us laughing now in this recession!! me included, I do all my shopping at Lidl and have saved a fortune.
If it weren’t for the Governments help to the Banks with our money I wonder how many high flyers in the City would be now shopping at Lidl.

Lucy 23 February 2012, 01.03

To be fair to Lidl, I worked in a retailer where security was even tighter. Our bags WERE searched at the end of every shift, but to be honest, nobody really minded, we just got on with it, the staff were friendly about it and never suspected you, it was just something that had to be done. We also had to have a sticker put on anything we bought whilst in store that was staying in store until we finished our shift. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me!

lidl employee 29 February 2012, 23.40

i worked for the coop years ago and the whole system was alot more relaxed. now i work for lidl and the lunch food does have to be signed by both the cashier and superviser and taped to the product as stated. the very worst thing at the moment is having to turn up to work 10mins early every day to count a till, then put it out, start work, and have to wait until the clock reaches your official start time before we are allowed to clock on. now, in my books, counting a till up and starting to serve customers is working. we are therefor losing 10mins of pay every day. i dont know who to complain to however as i dont trust the higher management not to let on somehow who complained and word would everntually get into my branch and then the lower management would find a way to edge me out of the company.

there are many flaws with this business, but this is just one aspect i have mentioned.

Mary 23 March 2012, 08.00

A very biased article, smacks of somebody who applied for a job with Lidl’s and was refused, or was fired for thieving! ALL retail companies are entitled to do spot checks on employees, in fact all companies are. I have been a union rep, and it’s perfectly acceptable practice to unions and employees. Only two of the above posts are in agreement with the article, and the mentality of those two are in serious doubt from their wording. As for Brennan, well, every village needs an idiot……..

Ian Dunmore 26 March 2012, 11.47

Having to turn up 10 minutes early is fine so long as the pay in the end is good.
You offer me £20.00 an hour and I will be early, Minimum wage and minimum input.
My present firm has the rep pf employing 3rd rate tossers as manager. It is fully deserved.
Working for an untintelligent idiot who misses the good old days when you could bully the apprentice etc is demeaning, but it pays the bills.

lidl employee 22 April 2012, 08.06

counting your till is part of your work so you should be paid for it, i do alot of cover shifts in different lidl stores and it all the same, i clock in before counting and clock out after cashing up, what your meant to do is come in, get your coat off get ready or whatever then clock in then count your till cause counting your till and cashing up is part of your work which means they should be paying you. ask your district manager or someone higher up as some store managers will try and avoid giving people extra hours to help their prod. the way i see it is the company tries to get as much as they can out of you when working so get what you can back. as for everything else said on this blog some stores are good some are bad, for staff it depends on the management.

lidl employee 22 April 2012, 08.16

in fact if you get any problems just go to citizens advice because if your working 5 days a week 4 weeks a month and your getting cheated out of 10 minutes each time thats 1hr and 40mins if my maths right (around £11 a month if your on £6.50)

michael 24 May 2012, 20.41

I have been shopping in Lidl for last 6 years. They never cheat like other branded supermarkets. When I shop in Azda or Tesco I always have to be careful but not in Lidl/Aldi. I can literally close my eyes and shop there! And quality? 3 years quarantee!!
Come on , give me a break…:)

P.Griffin 6 June 2012, 09.30

I do most of my shopping at Lidl,mainly because it is the nearest shop to were I live.I am 80 next year and am used to adding up my bill as I shop.Strange I have been over charged many times never under charged.
somtimes short changed.I wonder do any other customers have this problem?or is money not worth so little that it in not worth the trouble

putupon 17 June 2012, 18.48

I used to do main shop at Tesco and ignore Lidl but now it’s the other way round and I save a packet! As for hardship the builders’ supply company for whom I work docked our wages three years ago and took away all our bonuses and we are now under much more pressure.
Any jobs going at Lidl’s?

Vince Buhagiar 2 July 2012, 08.13

Hello everyone…it seems that an ingtriguing discussion is going on here. One question to all,is there anyone that can tell me from where i can buy a copy of the book mentioned in this article please: The Black Book On Lidl? It is of huge importance for a research i am conducting…would be glad to share the outcomes once concluded, with all those interested. Thank you.

matt 19 July 2012, 16.46

in all fairness the company have there good and bad side when working for them, yeah they push you to your limits and try and get the most out of you but tell me between working for lidls or a supermarket like tescos whos likely to promote you first, ive worked at the company as a store assistant for 1yr and a half and im very soon geting a promotion for duty manager. also lidls had a sports event and rounders was one of them. i went to it and all expence was paid for, stayed in a 5 star hotel and the company opened a bar tab of £2500 for 100 of us employees. they have there good and bad side but it does pay off

egle 3 September 2012, 01.19

For the lady who is complaining about the trolleys and not enough space for packing- some stores have the baskets, those which dont is the ones which are operating in a ribbish area and all of the baskets have been or will be stolen anyway! About the space by the till – each store has a place for packing, yes not by the till, that other customers wouldnt need to wait for you while you are packing, but you can drop everything in your trolley and pack futrher away and take as long as you want. Thats smart! as an employee I am not always happy about my job, sometimes we close very late and then have early shift the next day, sometimes our breaks suffer becayse it is too busy to get full break, and yes, there is no staff discount. BUT, we are getting paid quite well, you can always do overtime is you want to, my colleagues are like family to me and my managers are always helpful and understanding. I am working there for three years and have heard loads of bullshit about it, but I can tell you one thing, all workplaces have disadvantages, more we have – more we want, its never perfect. but think about people who doesnt have a job at all. we should be happy and stop complaining.

no one 17 September 2012, 12.44

I work for lidl the manager is the bigest idiot ever he talks down to you acuses you of theft lidl is the worst place ive worked at and wont be there next year thank god. also i think the pay is to low for what you do there and for how much money they take TIGHT BASTARDS !!!!!!!

ex lidls man 22 October 2012, 18.45

worked for lidls for 3 years , is hard , but Loved the pace, got made duty in three months , wish i didnt leave , if u can hack the speed , and the abuse , then its a walk in the park , done chikker clean once and worked 13 hours with only 15 min brake ,

Anom 28 October 2012, 10.15

I’ve been with Lidl for a while now as a Store Assistant. I’m 18. I love working for Lidl, in our store, everyone works hard and there is a great team spirit. There is not one person I don’t get along with.

All stores have their problems, but people seem to forget, who don’t work for the company, that you’re expected to work twice as hard because the money is so much better than other supermarkets. I really can’t complain. I work better under a pressured environment and that is how Lidl works. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The lady that’s complaining about trolleys/lack of space – that’s the whole idea of Lidl. It’s a fast paced environment so that the staff can get more done, customers can get home fast. The whole idea is to get a trolley and fill it, then pack in the PACKING AREA, to keep more customers coming through, clear the queues and let the staff get on with something else. It’s why we scan fast. Customers are the first to moan when there’s a queue, and first to moan when we scan to fast to eliminate the queues. There’s only so much we, as staff, can do with the space. Then again, it’s much easier to pack where you’re supposed to.

Mike 15 November 2012, 19.28

LIDL allows 1 Hour free car park in Ashford, UK and they charge £90 for overstay. I wonder is that legal? Isn’t this over-inflated charge a penalty? If not, aren’t they in breach of ‘Unfair contract terms act 1977’?
What’s the actual shopping experience for the customers with car? Car Parking, walking to the store, getting a trolley, waiting in the queue, packing the shopping, taking the trolley to the car park, loading the car boot, depositing the trolley back to the shed – a good 15/20 minutes?
No wonder people prefer other superstores than LIDL for their weekly shopping customers have more flexibilities.

An on-looker. 15 February 2013, 16.25

Since this is seemingly based on one Lidl store, one branch and a few selected people’s opinions, I’d say this article is based on opinionated facts. We all know that outside the UK it can be extremely different. In the UK we have human rights and minimum wage. I find this article highly irrelevant and biased based upon facts. Now, if there were more of those in this article, I would be delighted to read and agree but since it’s based on opinionated facts (opinions that people consider facts without evidence) I have no interest in it. Here in Scotland, Glasgow we’re being offered £10 AN HOUR! Why? Because they need the staff. More than likely because of articles based on opinions such as this one. I suggest the news papers and online news get people to write stuff that is true and not degrading to us humans. We can do better than this. Oh, by the way, I assume whoever wrote this “article”, if you can call it that has worked there and had hands on experience? Have they worked in every single Lidl in the world? Of course I’m asking rhetorical questions to summarise your stupidity. Try writing something based on facts for once. No one wants to read your fiction.

Caroline 29 March 2013, 09.57

Lidl is quiet, clean, has friendly staff, you know where to find everything and are not overwhelmed by choice. If I have to return an item it is refunded without any quibbles. And of course it is really good value for money. I do most of my shopping there, not just because of the price.

Col 6 May 2013, 09.18

Where have the bratwursts gone???

Fletch 15 May 2013, 20.51

Having worker in retail for over 12 years for various companies including Morrisons I can tell you all first hand that its not just Lidl that gets every little bit of work from there staff. I currently work for Lidl in the UK and can honestly say it is the best company I have worked for. Yes we work long shifts, yes I miss or take short breaks but I am appreciated for it and in the short time I have worked for the company have gone from store assistant to duty manager and now hold a position as deputy store manager.

This article makes it seem like Lidl is hard on its staff, if it wa written by someone who knew anything about working in retail then they would know that it is hard, physical and high pressure work no matter who you work for.

Oh and no-one mentions the 9.50 per hour that a lot of store assistants earn

anon 20 May 2013, 11.16

I am a highly qualified artistic director working for a small firm for minimum wage with an unacheivable bonus structure, no breaks lunch or otherwise. If i didn’t enjoy my vocation i would glady sit on a till and scan purchases for £9-£10 an hour

Unfair 20 May 2013, 23.11

Lidl is a very grudging company to work for. I am not working their anymore. I gave then nearly 6yrs of my time,sweat, aches and pains. For what? To get unfairly dismissed over procedures and four eyed principles. But wait…. Why did you sack me when Lidl management including District managers know exactly oh wait and SOM’s know exactly how stores operate at the end of the night! But they chose to ignore my colleagues misdoings and not following procedures. By not getting access to CCTV when I requested it to be looked at for my hard evidence! To back up my claims that all stores do it or have done it.

Comments are now closed on this article.

Red Pepper · 44-48 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7JP · +44 (0)20 7324 5068 · office[at]
Advertise · Press · Donate
For subscriptions enquiries please email