By on April 7, 2016

Volkswagen TDI

Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess has a target on his back, now that the union representing the automaker’s workers has made its distrust of the company public.

Labor union IG Metall slammed the company’s management in a letter published on its website, stating the company was using the diesel emissions scandal as a way of cutting staff, according to Bloomberg.

The union said it wants assurances from Volkswagen brass that layoffs aren’t coming down the pipe, and implied that Diess’ job is in danger if he doesn’t agree to protect employee positions.

“We have the impression that the diesel scandal is being used as a back door to undertake personnel cuts that wouldn’t have been on the agenda a few months ago,” works council boss Bernd Osterloh said in the letter, adding that the company’s management “lacks reliability.”

Other top union officials expressed their lack of trust in company management.

Diess has more reason to sweat than executives at other automakers. Volkswagen workers make up half of the company’s supervisory board, and Osterloh sits on the board as well.

A decade ago, brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard was muscled out of his position after proposing cost-cutting measures, and the same fate could await Diess.

Volkswagen personnel chief Karlheinz Blessing responded quickly to the union’s letter, claiming that negotiations would begin soon to hammer out an agreement on the long-term future of staff and facilities.

A report emerged last month that suggested Volkswagen was planning to cut some of its 40,000-strong office staff in Germany to free up money needed to settle lawsuits, fines and other costs arising from the scandal.

Other company-wide efficiencies were labelled “unrealistic” by Osterloh, who refused to back any cost-cutting plan that involved staffing cuts.

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9 Comments on “At Volkswagen, Labor Knives Come Out for Herbert Diess...”


  • avatar
    NoID

    And here I was thinking that the German way of unionized labor was more sensible. It sounds like, just like their UAW counterparts on this side of the pond, the unions are all too happy to let the sink ship while fighting over who gets in the lifeboat. Or tossed overboard, I don’t know what kind of severance agreement exists for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, the union is right, this is the best time to cut the bloated, expensive workforce. Any rational person should know that the Japanese and German labor agreements work only in good times, and prevent a company from adapting to new realities.

      Here’s another example of unions failing to acknowledge, or even to understand, those new realities. Now we get to see if German workers are as crazy as the Hostess workers who voted to run their own company out of business, and themselves out of work.

    • 0 avatar
      natrat

      IG Metall has a point in this case. VW management is dishonest and unreliable, and really should be swept out en masse for causing this. Realistically though that is probably not an option. What should be an option is massive pay cuts for management.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…it wants assurances from Volkswagen brass that layoffs aren’t coming down the pipe”

    Layoffs are a certainty, but it’s not because VW is picking on the union. The viability of the entire business is at stake.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    40,000 office staff? I can see cutting 75% of that as being wholly reasonable and prudent.

  • avatar

    Yet another avenue opens for litigation. They better hurry and sue while there’s anything left to get.

  • avatar
    PeugeotHound

    VW leadership would be in a stronger position to seek cost savings and workforce reductions if they chose to forgo their bonuses; but they’re not.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, in theory, the union has a point. The guys who screw the cars together weren’t the ones who decided to defraud their customers, and governments worldwide, with the cheating diesels.

    But they’ll be the ones who pay the price, that’s for sure.

    If I were working at the VW plant in Chattanooga, I’d shine up my resume.

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