HAMBURG, Germany -- Workers angered by Volkswagen AG's cost-cutting plans will expand warning strikes on Monday to nearly all the carmaker's western German plants, metalworkers' union IG Metall said on Friday.
About 4,000 workers downed tools briefly at three of the six plants early on Friday to put pressure behind their demands for a pay rise and job security at a time when Europe's biggest carmaker aims to slash labor costs to become more competitive.
Altogether, the six western German plants employ a workforce of around 103,000 people.
Staff plan to stage limited stoppages at VW's Brunswick, Salzgitter, Kassel and Emden plants and "decentralized information meetings" during working hours at VW's main plant in Wolfsburg, labor officials said.
Only VW's commercial vehicle factory near Hanover will be working normally on Monday, when wage talks are set to resume.
Works council officials say prolonged stoppages in Brunswick and Salzgitter would disrupt production in many countries because these factories make chassis, axles and motors for all the company's brands.
A company spokesman said Friday's one- to two-hour walk-outs had triggered only minor costs because missed production could be made up via flexible work times. Domestic plants are also not running at full capacity given weak demand in Germany.
Only around two-thirds of capacity at the Wolfsburg plant is being used, so it does not cover its fixed costs. The plant employs 23,000 staff and is looking for more work to keep jobs.
Including headquarters functions and subsidiaries, nearly 50,000 people work in Wolfsburg.
A fifth round of wage talks on Thursday left both sides still far apart on the last day of guaranteed labor peace, paving the way for VW's almost completely unionized workforce in western Germany to stage more walkouts while talks go on.
The company, whose flagship Volkswagen brand has plunged into losses this year, demands the 103,000 workers accept a two-year wage freeze and make further concessions that will boost competitiveness.
It aims to cut its labor bill 30 percent by 2011 to be able to withstand an onslaught by lower-cost rivals in a fiercely competitive sector that has kept prices under severe pressure.
Labor relations are at a nadir at Volkswagen, which prides itself on harmonious ties with workers and whose personnel chief is even a member of IG Metall.
Other automakers are also trying to cut costs in Germany, home to the world's highest-paid car workers, so the entire engineering sector is watching the VW wage talks closely.
General Motors plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs in Europe -- the bulk of them in Germany -- to stem chronic losses in the region, where it has not made a profit since 1999. Negotiations are continuing.