Employee representatives of Volkswagen are in talks with US union United Auto Workers over organisation of workers at the German carmaker’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a German newspaper said.
“For VW, it is a matter of course that its employees are unionized,” Handelsblatt daily quoted VW global works council head Michael Riffel as saying.
He did not say whether the VW workers in Chattanooga could be organized under the UAW umbrella. “That decision is up to our colleagues in the United States,” Riffel was quoted as saying.
UAW officials were not immediately available. VW spokesman Guenther Scherelis declined to comment on Riffel’s statements.
At the Tennessee plant, “the workers decide themselves how they want to be represented,” Scherelis said. When the factory reaches full capacity, it will employ more than 2,000 people, including more than 1,200 production workers.
Handelsblatt said VW German works council head Bernd Osterloh, German union IG Metall’s head Berthold Huber and UAW President Bob King had met several times.
King said earlier this year that the future of the UAW probably depends on whether it can unionise factories in the United States run by foreign companies.
The UAW believes that without organising plants of Asian and European companies, it can no longer safeguard pay for US auto workers.
The UAW represents workers for the major US automakers, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group, which is managed by Fiat. The union and the automakers are scheduled to open formal negotiations for new labor deals later this month.
Last month, the UAW said it was forming a global network with Fiat’s unions in Italy to share information and best practices, an approach it also has taken with GM and Ford unions.
The UAW has been losing membership since its peak in 1979, when it had nearly 1.5 million members. Last year was the first time the UAW gained members in six years.
The union had 376,612 members at the end of last year. That is still a fraction of its 2004 membership of about 655,000.
“We’ll start to hear some announcements of companies that they are going to start organizing fairly soon,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan. “It’s too important to the future of the union.”
From / Gulf Today