VW labor leader seeks German-like workers council in Tennessee

Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:11pm EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG's top labor leader still wants workers at the company's plant in Tennessee to have German-style representation, an arrangement that would require the involvement of a U.S. trade union such as the United Auto Workers.

Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's global works council, told Reuters on Tuesday that he plans to visit workers at the plant to offer "clarification" on how a works council operates at the company.

Osterloh also said he expects to meet with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker, who played a key role in bringing Volkswagen to Chattanooga, a city where he was once mayor. Haslam and Corker have voiced opposition to representation of VW's Chattanooga workers by the UAW, saying it would damage the state's ability to attract companies.

No date for a trip to Tennessee has been set, Osterloh said. A works council, in which both blue-collar and white-collar workers are represented, is an essential part of VW's corporate model, he said.

In Germany, a works council represents workers on work rules in the plants and some other dealings with the company, but wages and benefits are negotiated by the IG Metall union, of which Osterloh is a member.

"We started out with the goal to implement a works council at every (VW production) site in the world," Osterloh said, adding that anything beyond that depends on talks among the parties. "We will now have to see how things work out."

Earlier this month, Osterloh lent weight to UAW efforts to represent VW Chattanooga workers by saying the company wants Chattanooga to join the rest of the company's major plants around the world in having a works council.


A Volkswagen logo is seen on the front of a Volkswagen vehicle at a dealership in Carlsbad, California, April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake