Union rejects VW management proposals as wage talks start

Wolfsburg, Germany. Unions believe Volkswagen management is trying to drive a wedge between the company's plants with its concept for the forthcoming 2004 wage talks.

VW personnel director Peter Hartz is planning to grant individual locations flexibility in regard to pay negotiations. But IG Metall, the German metalworkers union, and employee representatives from the company's plants in western Germany oppose the idea.

"IG Metall will not agree to a transfer of responsibility to individual businesses and locations for what used to be collectively agreed wages," said Hartmut Meine, the union's negotiator at VW. "This would further increase the blackmail-like pressure on employees and works councils when it comes to the competition for locations."

Hartz, who believes his proposals will make plants more competitive and keep jobs in Germany, also wants to introduce so-called “co-investments. These could mean longer working hours to help offset additional costs. The union is also opposed to this concept.

"Co-investment will mean an unpaid increase in working hours," IGMetall's Meine said. „IG Metall strictly rejects this.”

The works councils within the VW group unanimously oppose the concept of co-investment. "It is not the works council's job to organize austerity measures," said Detlef Tanke, deputy head of the works council at the Salzgitter motor plant. He called Hartz's idea a "return favor for one-off investments."

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