Money, jobs, works: investment round of irritations at VW

Wolfsburg (dpa) – Was it a new provocation? Or an overdue wake-up call? Around statements by CEO Herbert Diess about allegedly 30. 000 endangered positions recently broke the group-typical wave of excitement at Volkswagen

To be more precise: the exact reference of his thoughts in a board meeting. Some fear that Europe’s largest carmaker will have to cut many jobs again due to cost pressure, the chip crisis and the growing market power of the US rival Tesla.

Management assured that there were no concrete plans, and certainly no cross-off list. Others believe: Diess’ remarks could serve as a test balloon for possible further austerity packages – also because of subsequent warnings to top executives that one should not miss the boat when restructuring the auto industry.

Either way, the timing would be fit: In three weeks (12. November), decisions on investments in the next five years should be made in Germany’s largest company. The planning round for the allocation of the works and the distribution of the billions on individual topics had often been preceded by haggling and feinting. And of course it’s also about jobs that depend on existing and new models.

Tesla and semiconductors in the back of my mind

This time the mixture is particularly delicate. It is unclear when there will be enough semiconductors again to curb the largely ongoing short-time work. Likewise, the question of how big the consequences of Tesla’s “Gigafabrik” near Berlin will be for the car market, virtually right on the doorstep of VW headquarters in Wolfsburg.

Wolfsburg was also the topic of the latest Irritations. In September Diess had named the number 30. 000 in a supervisory board round – as he later pointed out, but as Extreme scenario, if the change in the direction of e-mobility does not progress as hoped.

One thing is clear: The VW main plant is now badly underutilized, 2021 could be so are produced less than last at the end of the 1950 years. From the current point of view, it should be difficult to even manage the almost half a million of the tough Corona year 2020.

The works council is alarmed. He has long been asking for another electric model in addition to the “Trinity” project, which is to come from 2026 – later than initially planned. With the ID series, Wolfsburg may also have opportunities for a joint production with other works.

Even if Diess’ advance should not appear to be in the mood for threatened job cuts: participants in the meeting wonder why he is with a fresh contract already pushed forward again like this. Everyone knows that VW has to cut costs, especially with the core brand.

At the end of the 2016 agreed «future pact», the cuts in parallel construction provided for new fields of employment, the “Roadmap Digital Transformation” followed. At the end of last year, the management and works council agreed that the fixed costs of the VW brand to 2023 should be reduced by five percent. At the same time, the rate of return should increase. Personnel expenses are also being pushed down by early retirement, partial retirement or hiring freezes – within the framework of programs that are already running.

VW may have to make further adjustments in view of the consequences of the pandemic, lack of parts and transformation pressure. But why, some ask, is this hot topic coming up so quickly in this form?

Works council demands clarification on jobs

Here the makers, there the blockers – this line of conflict between the board of directors and parts of the control committee has long been the common narrative in Wolfsburg. Especially when delicate decisions had to be prepared. After Bernd Osterloh, head of the works council for many years, moved to the board of the commercial vehicle subsidiary Traton in May and Diess forced its own contract extension in July, some thought it would now be a little quieter and more harmonious.

Far from it you might think. Osterloh’s successor Daniela Cavallo had announced that she would stand up for the interests of the workforce with just as much determination. And Diess had declared that it was looking forward to working with her. However, it has now been reported from corporate circles that there had been no coordination with the employee representatives before the calculation of possible savings targets. Then the rumbling in the supervisory board – so everything is the same? “There are no mind games about any job cuts,” Cavallo clarified – and also asked Diess to clarify.

Officially, nobody wants to use the word breach of trust. But everyone involved knows that a lot is at stake for VW in the next few years and that everyone should therefore pull together. Diess is known for his gruff manner with which he flirts himself. However, this does not detract from the assessment of many industry experts that hardly anyone is as brave as he is when it comes to planning the future. His change of course is highly regarded in industry.

“When I think of Wolfsburg, I don’t have the job cuts in mind,” he said internally work. We need a new way of thinking. ” Wolfsburg also has to stretch. In a VW paper to the potential coalition partners in the federal government, it says: “We want to do our part to ensure that Europe is greenhouse gas-neutral by 2050.” The need for more agility cannot be ignored, according to Diess. In the matter completely undisputed, says someone from the ownership. However, they will not support any unsettled approach. “He couldn’t get away with that.”

VW employees have long known how painful the upheavals in the German core industry could be. At the repeated intrigues, however, there is some head shaking. It was thought that the constant navel gazing at the top would stop now, says one. Instead, the bosses should please take care of the acute problems – keyword tape stop due to missing semiconductors. VW has had a task force for months that is supposed to find as many chips as possible. But also Cavallo is becoming noticeably nervous here.

“The management of a global corporation can be expected to be able to organize purchasing in such a way that cars can be built reliably,” said the new head of the works council, “Time on-line”. No plan is yet apparent from the management, “how this crisis can be managed. In the first half of the year we made a record profit, and now there is speculation about the shedding of thousands of jobs. ”

The next few weeks will show whether some brand numbers in the third quarter might turn out to be red. From the perspective of the Wolfsburg workers, it does not seem particularly helpful that Diess once again appears to be not very approachable. He canceled an invitation to the next works meeting at headquarters on November 4th. Reason: an appointment with US investors.

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