Wal-Mart's newly launched scheme to educate its workers about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programme has come under attack from union officials, who claim the move is little more than an attempt to polish its public persona.

Wal-Mart has initiated an educational programme on EITC benefits in California, which it plans to extend nationwide in the next tax cycle, a spokesperson for the company told just-food today (27 June).

"The momentum behind it is education - ways our employees can save money and live better," the spokesperson said.

However, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union president Joe Hansen has termed the programme "another company effort to polish its image".

He attacked Wal-Mart for the low wages it pays employees and highlighted the groups "lengthy and notorious history of shifting its employment costs onto American taxpayers".

"Wal-Mart is in the midst of an aggressive campaign to change its public persona. But what it needs to change are its corporate practices. Shouldn't Wal-Mart begin by taking responsibility for its own workers?" Hansen asked.

Wal-Mart declined to respond to the UFCWIU's accusations. "We are not going to be drawn into a back and forth argument with the union," Wal-Mart's spokesperson said.