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Labor representatives at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s German arm claim the company is implementing an ethics code without consulting them, a union spokeswoman said Wednesday. Wal-Mart’s Wuppertal-based German operation denied the allegations, saying the worker-management councils had been informed that what it called “ethical guidelines” were to be distributed. “The worker-management councils were informed in advance that the company’s ethics code was being sent out,” the world’s largest retailer said in a statement released Wednesday. Members of worker-management councils from several of Wal-Mart’s 91 German stores have approached the ver.di service workers’ union, saying they were not allowed to vote on the code before it was handed out. Under German employment laws, employee-management councils must sign off on a wide range of workplace conditions, from hiring and firing to the position of desks in an office. A spokeswoman for ver.di, which represents most of Wal-Mart’s 13,000 employees in Germany, said council representatives were particularly angered at wording that she said was directly translated from the English, without regard for local norms and customs, and were contemplating a lawsuit. “We would ask that those demanding ethical behavior would display such behavior themselves, which Wal-Mart doesn’t, as this has shown,” said Matina Suennicasen, a spokeswoman for ver.di. She declined to comment on the guidelines. Media reports published excerpts prohibiting workers from having intimate relationships with colleagues who could affect their compensation or accepting gifts from wholesalers. The code also encourages workers to inform superiors of colleagues caught breaking the rules, according to the reports. Wal-Mart insisted the guidelines are intended to maintain a safe workplace environment. “The company’s ethics code is used by Wal-Mart around the world and describes ethical ground rules for personal conduct that normally takes place in healthy and honest human understanding,” Wal-Mart said. Wal-Mart shares rose 45 cents to close at $51.33 in Wednesday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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