February 21, 2018 / 2:10 PM / in a year

UPDATE 1-Trade unions at VW's Skoda reject latest wage offer

(Adds union demands, comments)

PRAGUE, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Trade unions at Volkswagen’s Czech carmaker Skoda Auto have rejected the company’s latest wage increase offer, the unions said in a statement on Wednesday.

Unions said last week they were starting preparations for a possible extended strike, a rare event in the central European country whose economic growth is propelled by the car sector.

With strong growth in recent years and unemployment dropping to its lowest level in two decades, wages have been rising fast across sectors, putting pressure on employers.

In Germany, Volkswagen agreed to raise the wages of around 120,000 workers by 4.3 percent from May, resolving a dispute that prompted its first strikes since 2004.

Czech media have reported that Skoda, the country’s top exporter, with sales topping 1 million cars for four years in a row, offered its workers a 15 percent pay hike over the next 27 months in the latest round of talks.

Unions rejected that and pushed management to drop its demands to introduce a new shift system and insistence on spreading out the pay raise over such a long period.

“Otherwise there is nothing to negotiate,” the unions’ statement said.

Unions made no further mention of a strike in the latest statement. Talks between the two are scheduled to resume on Feb. 27. Skoda declined to comment.

Skoda, Volkswagen’s second-most profitable brand in terms of operating margin, reported another record year for sales in 2017 with global deliveries up 6.6 percent to 1.2 million vehicles.

Skoda’s Czech plants accounted for 60.7 percent of the country’s car production in 2017, followed by Hyundai Motor and a joint plant of Toyota and Peugeot Citroen (TPCA). (Reporting by Jason Hovet, editing by David Evans)

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