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Pilfered euro sparks German row

 Barbara Emme
Cashier Barbara Emme, sacked over missing bottle deposits

The sacking of a supermarket cashier suspected of pilfering has provoked wrangling in Germany about public morality and the role of big business.

Barbara Emme was fired for allegedly stealing 1.30 euros (1.16) worth of bottle deposits from her employer after more than 30 years of service.

Trades unions and some politicians have rallied to her defence.

They say she should not be punished so harshly while bankers who have lost billions stay in their jobs

Ms Emme worked at a Berlin branch of the Kaiser's supermarket chain for 31 years.

It is cases like these that destroy people's confidence in democracy
Wolfgang Thierse
Social Democratic Party (SPD)

But earlier this week a labour court upheld Kaiser's decision to sack her for the suspected theft of 1.30 euros worth of bottle deposits.

Veteran politician Wolfgang Thierse, the Social Democrat (SPD) speaker of parliament, described it an example of barbaric capitalism.

"It is cases like these that destroy people's confidence in democracy," he said.

"The court could have decided otherwise and taken into account that she had worked herself to the bone for 31 years for the company."

Human rights

Horst Seehofer of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), a sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), said the case exposed double standards.

"How can a cashier be fired because of 1.30 euros, while managers who lose billions of euros are allowed to keep their jobs?" he asked.

Ms Merkel has dismissed speculation that public hostility towards big business and the bailed-out banks could influence this September's general election.

"I think Germany is in a strong position and will emerge stronger from the crisis than when the country went into it," she said.

Ms Emme says she will argue her case before the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

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