Migros, the Swiss co-operative retailer, has responded angrily to claims in the newspaper Work that it was in the process of secretly preparing to lay off large numbers of its staff.
"These allegations are false," said Migros in a statement. "In fact the truth is entirely the opposite: this year, Migros has created between 500 and 1,000 new jobs." The exact figures will not be available until the start of next year, it added.
The company also denied claims in the article that the regional Migros co-operative group based in the east of Switzerland was preparing to lay off staff, stressing that it too had in fact created 250 jobs, of which 130 alone were at its two specialist DIY outlets under the OBI fascia.
"At the present time, the eastern Switzerland arm of Migros employs 11,500 people, making it the most important employer in this part of Switzerland," the chain said, although its director, Christian Biland, did admit that it had begun a cost-cutting programme "in order to remain competitive in the long term".
This, he said, would mean that staff who left the company would not automatically be replaced. "On average we take on 150 new staff every month to replace others who have left the company for a variety of reasons," he said. "In the future this figure is likely to be nearer 140 a month."
But, he added, by the end of 2004, the eastern co-operative will employ more staff, not less, than it does currently as a result of a number of planned new projects.