BERLIN -- Germany's IG Metall union rejected on Sunday an appeal by the premier of the state of Lower Saxony, carmaker Volkswagen AG's biggest shareholder, for a longer working week in Germany.
"Anyone who like (Lower Saxony premier) Christian Wulff calls for a 40 hour week would put at risk more than 20,000 jobs at Volkswagen," IG Metall's Lower Saxony leader Hartmut Meine said in a statement.
Wulff was cited in Berliner Zeitung newspaper on Saturday as saying it would not be possible to maintain Volkswagen's 175,000 jobs in Germany unless workers were more flexible. Lower Saxony owns just under 20 percent of the firm.
"If we are flexible, creative and ready to work more under different conditions then we have a chance of maintaining Germany as a business location," Wulff was quoted as saying.
The newspaper also cited him saying he believed it was right all workers in Germany should return to a 40 hour week.
In recent weeks both engineering firm Siemens AG and car maker DaimlerChrysler AG have wrung concessions on working time from IG Metall by threatening to move parts of their production out of Germany.
According to IG Metall, the average work week at Volkswagen lies below the 35 hours that is standard in the country's western metalworking industry.
Volkswagen has said it wants to cut personnel costs by 30 percent by 2011 and has suggested 30 percent of wages should be flexible and depend on individual and company performance.
The company and IG Metall are due to begin negotiations over trimming costs in mid-September. In its statement, IG Metall said its wage policy committee would consider the union's negotiating position at a meeting on August 19.