VW labor chief backs UAW union bid for U.S. works council

Mon Oct 7, 2013 2:06pm EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) top labor leader lent weight on Monday to efforts by U.S. union UAW to represent workers at the German company's U.S. plant, an issue that has raised hackles among some U.S. politicians and other critics of UAW.

Volkswagen wants German-style labor representation at the plant through a works council and has held talks with the UAW about how the union can be involved in setting one up.

Currently the workers at VW's plant producing the Passat car in Chattanooga, Tennessee, are not represented by a union.

But the UAW is keen to boost its membership, which has shrunk to about a quarter of the 1.5 million workers it had in 1979, and get a toehold that could allow it to expand among all foreign-owned auto companies.

However, Tennessee Republican Bob Corker was quoted by German newspaper Handelsblatt on Monday as saying it would be one of VW's "biggest mistakes" to allow the UAW to organize workers in Chattanooga.

But Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's global works council, said in a statement that forming a council was important if the plant wanted to produce other VW cars and he would keep talking with the UAW.

VW is looking at the idea of building a seven-passenger crossover utility vehicle at Chattanooga rather than at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, where it already assembles the Jetta compact car and the New Beetle, a U.S. executive of VW said last month.

"We know how important that (second) vehicle is for Chattanooga," said Osterloh, who as deputy chairman of VW has a say on production decisions.   Continued...