* Schlecker drugstore chain axing more than 11,000 jobs
* FDP blocked possible rescue deal for Schlecker
* Berlin confident workers will find jobs elsewhere
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN, March 30 Thousands of workers at
insolvent Schlecker drug store chain will soon find new jobs in
Germany's buoyant economy, the government said on Friday, after
regional leaders failed to agree a rescue package for the ailing
Union leaders, politicians and media have criticised
Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partner, the
low-tax, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), for torpedoing plans
for a 71 million euro loan guarantee to set up an agency for the
retraining and job placement of 11,000 Schlecker employees.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel believed
such an agency would be appropriate in times of mass
unemployment but that this was not now the case.
"For the chancellor what is most important now is to look
forward and do everything to enable those affected to find new
jobs as soon as possible," he told a regular news conference.
"According to everything that experts tell us, there is a good
probability of employees finding another job in this sector."
Germany's jobless rate dropped to a new post-reunification
low of 6.7 percent in March, with unemployment falling for the
fifth month running, data showed on Thursday.
"The labour market situation is favorable," said an economy
ministry spokeswoman. "At the moment there are nearly twice as
many job openings in retail as there are Schlecker employees
The FDP, whose support has sagged since it joined Merkel's
coalition in 2009 and which dropped out of a fifth state
assembly in an election last weekend, has come under fire for
blocking the agency to help Schlecker's mostly female workforce.
"Schlecker aid fails because of FDP", "FDP disappoints
Schlecker women" and "I am ashamed for the FDP" were some of the
headlines in leading German newspapers on Friday.
Opposition politicians accused the FDP of trying to carve
out a more distinctive profile for itself ahead of next year's
federal election at the expense of the Schlecker workers.
"The FDP is fighting desperately for its own future at the
cost of the fate of the Schlecker workers," Greens leader Renate
The FDP may well score points with some German voters fed up
with taxpayer bailouts of countries and companies. Former
Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg gained popularity in
2009 when he tried to resist a push by fellow cabinet members to
give car-maker Opel billions of euros in state aid.
Court-appointed insolvency administrator for Schlecker Arndt
Geiwitz said he feared Schlecker employees would file complaints
against their dismissal, thereby making it all the more
difficult to find a new owner for the 3,000 stores.
The Schleckers, once one of Germany's wealthiest families,
announced in January they had lost their multi-billion-euro
fortune, leaving them unable to pump fresh funds into their
Schlecker, which competes with privately held chains
Rossmann and dm, filed for insolvency, as struggling European
businesses find it increasingly hard to secure funds against a
gloomy economic backdrop.
The Schlecker family had said it hoped to bring Germany's
biggest drugstore chain back out of insolvency and continue
running it as a family business.
Economy Minister and FDP leader Philipp Roesler has said
regional governments had simply promised Schlecker workers too
much, and it was up to job agencies to find new jobs for the
workers at Schlecker.
The HDE retail association said the workers would soon find
new jobs if they were flexible, given the tight labour market.
(Editing by Alistair Lyon)