Nevertheless, retail chains offer scant remuneration, and many people in Latvia rather opt to not work at all than take up such jobs, reports LTV's Aizliegtais Paņēmiens, offering a look at just how much - or little - people who work in retail are paid in Latvia.
Throughout April 2018, an undercover journalist attended job interviews at Latvia's most popular retail chains.
She first contacted Maxima. The company posted a profit of €12 million in 2016 with a turnover of €690 million. It employs around 8,000 people in Latvia. The journalist learned they offer pay of €3 an hour during the trial period, with a modest increase to €3.1 after that. This means the average Maxima clerk earns about €350 after taxes per month (160 work hours, without tax breaks for having dependents).
The Kesko Senukai store, a retail chain selling construction, gardening and other supplies, had a turnover of €50 million and had losses of about €3.5 million in 2016. The pay they offer, namely €3.9/h, means their clerks' monthly pay is about €450 after tax.
The Promo Cash&Carry wholesale chain offers €500 a month. It had a turnover of €20 million in 2016 and posted about €700,000 in losses.
The Top retail chain has bout 250 stores across Latvia and employs about 3,000 people. It had a turnover of €243 million in 2016. The interviewer told the journalist, remarkably, that while the before-tax pay is €3 (bringing it below €350 after taxes a month), employees nevertheless receive a net €500 per month.
Another retail chain, Mego, pays €375 a month. Rimi - which employs about 5,700 people across Latvia, also pays the same sum.
The show concludes that the largest retail chains, namely Maxima, Mego, and Rimi, pay the lowest wages. According to CV Online research, only hospital attendants earn less. The average wage in Latvia last year was about €700. The minimum gross monthly wage in Latvia is €430 since 2018.
Both Rimi and Maxima are introducing self-checkout machines, but these are not presented as a means for raising workers' wages.
Nevertheless, it is hoped that the arrival of Lidl will put pressure on retailers to raise wages. In Lithuania, Lidl's clerks earn wages that are a third higher than those in Maxima Latvija. They're paid about €600 a month.
Of course, the clerks themselves could protest low wages, but Latvia has only a few strong trade unions. "I think no [retail clerk] is happy in Latvia. Not a single one. It's not normal to receive €300 for working long hours, from 10 to 11," a Maxima employee confided to a journalist, who spoke under the guise of a trade union representative.
An employee at Mego, meanwhile, said he can't make ends meet in his current job as he has to help support his family. When he was proposed to take part in a strike, he said he can't make it as he has work that day. He said that recently he had left work two hours early to attend an event his kid had at school. For this, he was stripped of two days' worth of earnings.
"Many are afraid to say anything. You understand, don't you? They're clinging to what little they have," the Mego employee said.