Top discount store taps into a pool of elderly job seekers

Elderly people can count on lighter work at Biedronka stores. Photo: Pixabay/ TeroVesalainen

The changes in the Portuguese-owned retail chain’s HR strategy results from an increased competition between individual companies looking to hire quality staff.

Retailers have been trying to attract the scant labor force by raising the wages it offers to a level which until recently seemed out of reach. A cashier- salesperson at a Biedronka store can count on an income starting at PLN 2,650 (EUR 850) if based in Warsaw. However it seems that money is not enough as many people still complain of the difficulty of a shop work. Supermarket staff are often tasked with heavy lifting, which is impossible for some, especially for older cashiers.

In order to meet its employees’ expectations and retain a cheap and efficient labour force Biedronka decided to separate the two functions, that of a cashier and that of a store crew from one another.

We received questions from the employees at Biedronka, asking us if the two functions could be separated- said that Grażyna Wątka, a director of HR at Jeronimo Martins Polska, and added that “ We wanted to make our offer more flexible so that we can cater to a larger group of people. Thanks to this change we are targeting new groups of potential employees, people who for various reasons did not consider working with us before, or constituted a small fraction of our workforce such as students or retired people”.

However, such a change comes at a price. The minimum wage for a cashier only is a 100 zlotys lower than the previous wage. It’s a strategy that not only saves the company EUR30 per employee each month, it already hired 80 people.

The company’s net sales increased by 13 percent compared to the previous year.

One of the fastest-growing chains in the country , Biedronka, owned by Portuguese Jeronimo-Martins, opened 121 news shops in Poland in 2017 and closed only 20.

Jeronimo Martins controls 2,800 stores in Poland and pays PLN 409.3 million tax, making it the largest corporate income tax payer among all retail chains. The chain has in recent years addressed its image problems. A well-known case of worker exploitation at the store created a scandal and was the subject of a 2102 film called “Women’s Day” (Dzień Kobiet) about a shop manageress who successfully sued them for how she was treated working there several years previously.