* Labour influence key to VW's strategy
* Workers on Friday voted against representation by UAW
* VW labour representatives to travel to U.S. in next two
By Jan Schwartz and Andreas Cremer
HAMBURG/BERLIN, Feb 16 Volkswagen's
works council said it would press on with efforts to set up
labour representation at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant,
undeterred by a workers' vote against any such step involving
the United Auto Workers union (UAW).
Employees at the plant, in a region traditionally hostile to
organised labour, on Friday opted to reject representation by
the union, whose membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979
and now stands at just under 400,000.
"The outcome of the vote, however, does not change our goal
of setting up a works council in Chattanooga," Gunnar Kilian,
secretary general of VW's works council, said in a statement on
Sunday, adding that workers continued to back the idea of labour
representation at the plant.
VW's rise to become one of the top three global carmakers is
intertwined with the influence of labour, whose representatives
make up half of the group's 20-member supervisory board.
Under the group's "co-determination" policy, workers have a
say over matters affecting work rules and the workplace
environment while the consensual structure allows management to
draw on labour support in decisions on new products and plants.
Kilian said he would travel to the United States to meet
labour law experts and start consulting with them in the next
two weeks to "define further steps", adding he would be joined
by Frank Patta, secretary general of Volkswagen's global works
PARAMOUNT TO UNIONS
Opposition to UAW involvement stemmed from concerns among
many workers that a union would strain cordial relations with
the company, which pays well by local and U.S. auto industry
Some experts contend that VW needs a labour union in the
United States to help set up a works council in Chattanooga,
where it builds the mid-sized Passat Sedan.
"Representation in Chattanooga is paramount to the unions at
VW," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center of
Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
"The U.S. are the last blank spot on VW's global map where
labour does not yet have a voice. The VW group's works council
will do what it can to change that and it's fully backed by
Following a 2011-12 sales surge in the United States, VW has
hit an American pothole in the road to global supremacy and
needs more models designed for U.S. consumers and manufactured
completely in the region, analysts say.
The German group, languishing in the bottom third of U.S.
quality rankings, ousted its divisional chief Jonathan Browning
in December after U.S. deliveries fell 7 percent in 2013 as a
push into competitive midsize cars lost traction.
To counter this underperformance, VW is planning to spend $7
billion in the region and build a sport-utility vehicle tailored
for the North American market.