German auto industry debates 40-hour work week

Munich. Workers in the German auto industry will have to adapt to longer working hours to remain competitive, say employers.

"Only a significant reduction in labor costs will secure more added value within the German auto industry; all the facts need to be examined for that, including working hours," said Bernd Gottschalk, president of the VDA, the German automotive industry association.

According to an Automobilwoche poll of 25 suppliers, three companies are currently planning an increase to 40 working hours a week without additional payment. Around half of those questioned are at least considering an increase in working hours.

Mann + Hummel, a filter specialist from Ludwigsburg, plans to introduce the 40 hour week at five locations. Negotiations with the works council will start within the next few weeks.

ZF Friedrichshafen wants to negotiate an increase to up to 40 hours a week with the works councils from 26 locations. The 31 plants concerned employ 34,200 people.

And U.S. supplier Federal-Mogul wants to introduce the 40-hour week to improve results. All twelve German locations are concerned, said Armin Ditze, head of the works council at the Nuremberg plant.

"They cannot get enough," said Werner Neugebauer, head of IG Metall in Bavaria. He said Federal-Mogul's plans would meet with fierce resistance. Contrary to Siemens, "in this case it is not about revitalizing the company," he said.

DaimlerChrysler and Opel are also discussing a reduction in labor costs. "The conditions at the Sindelfingen plant are no longer up to date. For example in some cases a late shift bonus has to be paid from 1 pm," said Mercedes boss Juergen Hubbert.

Mercedes-Benz is currently discussing where to produce the C-class successor. It will only be built at Sindelfingen near Stuttgart if employees make concessions. That could mean abandoning breaks or holding group discussions outside working hours.

Working hours at the Opel plant in Bochum will also be extended in future.

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