FRANKFURT Labor representatives have harshly criticized German phone company Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGn.DE) treatment of workers at its ailing U.S. unit, which the group plans to merge with MetroPCS PCS.N.
Lothar Schroeder of the Verdi services workers union, who is also a member of Telekom's supervisory board, told Reuters on Sunday that some of the group's U.S. call centre agents are working under what they described as a "climate of tyranny".
Schroeder had spent a month talking to Deutsche Telekom call centre employees across the United States, he said.
German monthly Der Spiegel earlier reported that some call centre agents had been forced to write lines or wear donkey ears, citing a dossier written by Schroeder and the head of union Communications Workers of America (CWA), Larry Cohen.
The dossier also included reports of wilful dismissals of employees.
Spiegel cited Telekom Chief Executive Officer Rene Obermann as saying this was a campaign launched by unions to "increase their influence and power in the USA".
"We take each individual case seriously, investigate it and will address any grievance if that is the case," the CEO was also quoted as saying.
Deutsche Telekom this month took a 7.4 billion euro ($9.4 billion) impairment charge for its T-Mobile USA unit, which it plans to merge with smaller rival MetroPCS PCS.N, pushing it to a 6.9 billion euro third-quarter net loss.
The MetroPCS deal is only a Plan B for the No. 4 U.S. wireless network since its $39 billion attempt to sell T-Mobile USA to AT&T (T.N) collapsed in late 2011 because of opposition from antitrust regulators. ($1 = 0.7871 euros)
(Reporting by Martin Zwiebelberg; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by David Cowell)