Employees at the plant, in a region traditionally hostile to
organized labor, 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 labor representation at
VW's rise to become one of the top three global carmakers is
intertwined with the influence of labor, 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 labor support in
decisions on new products and plants.
Kilian said he would travel to the United States to meet labor 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 council.
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 standards.
Some experts contend that VW needs a labor union in the United
States to help set up a works council in Chattanooga, where it
builds the mid-sized Passat Sedan.
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"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 labor
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 management."
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.
(Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt;
Janet Lawrence and Anthony Barker)
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