Labor chief of Volkswagen sees no need for four-day week to save jobs

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Volkswagen sees no need for a four-day week at its factories to secure jobs despite an increasing shift to electric cars that are easier to build and require fewer employees, the company’s head of labour relations said on Sunday.

Germany’s largest trade union IG Metall on August 15 proposed negotiating for a transition to a four-day week throughout the industry to help secure jobs, against the backdrop of economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis and structural shifts in the automobile sector.

But Volkswagen labor chief Bernd Osterloh informed Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the automaker’s cost-cutting plan, which includes decreasing the workforce by up to 7,000 through the early retirement of the administrative staff at its Wolfsburg headquarters, was enough to help it overcome the coronavirus crisis and other problems.

“At the moment we are not talking about less work,” Osterloh said. “With the Golf we had the (production) levels of last year in June and July and introduced extra shifts,” he said, referring to one of the company’s most popular models.

“The four-day week is not an issue for us.”

Demands by IG Metall, which accounts for 2.3 million employees in the metalworking and electrical sectors, are potentially significant in Germany as they often set benchmarks for wage negotiations in those industries and beyond.

VW in 2016 set out a cost-reduction program dubbed Future Pact, but the company has ruled out compulsory layoffs until 2025. Osterloh was quoted as saying in July that the automaker had no need for deeper cost cuts to counter the effects of COVID-19, which dealt a severe blow to auto sales.

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