Works council salaries: VW manager acquitted

Released on 28.09. 2021

  • Horst Neumann (2nd from left) and Karlheinz Blessing (2nd from right), former VW Group HR directors, are standing together with two other defendants shortly before the start of the trial in the town hall of Braunschweig. (Archive image). Photo: Moritz Frankenberg

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Between and 2011 high VW works councils received lavish remuneration and bonuses. Was there any right thing to do with it? Now there is a verdict in the criminal proceedings.

Braunschweig (dpa) – In the infidelity process for the long-term approval of high salaries for senior works councils at Volkswagen, the Braunschweig regional court acquitted the four accused personnel managers.

The competent chamber ruled on Tuesday that no criminal behavior could be proven. She did not follow the line of the public prosecutor’s office, which had called for suspended sentences and monetary conditions for the executives in its plea.

The question was whether three former managers and one who is still in office today between and 2016 had released inappropriately high salaries for particularly influential members of the VW workforce representation (Ref .: 16 KLs 85 / 19). From a legal point of view, the accusation was of breach of trust, sometimes in a particularly serious case. Part of the profit was reduced by the excessive salaries, which means that VW also paid less taxes.

Affected works councils?

The damage to the largest European car manufacturer was estimated by the indictment in the proceedings at more than 5 million euros. Critics of the group also suspected that the management might have tried to secure the discretion of the works council through financial donations before difficult decisions.

Among the defendants were also those Ex-corporate personnel managers Horst Neumann and Karlheinz Blessing. The prosecutor had argued that all four managers had acted in breach of duty and deliberately with regard to the remuneration of senior works councils. All defense lawyers, however, had pleaded for acquittal.

Unclear salary rules

In the main hearing it was also about the remuneration of the long-term ex-boss the employee representative, Bernd Osterloh, left. In years with high bonuses, he received total remuneration of up to three quarters of a million euros. As a witness in the process, he had emphasized: “I was not involved in any payment determination that affects my person.”

The main issue was whether there were any binding and sufficiently precise regulations for There is a salary determination for employee representatives. It is always important to weigh up at which career level the respective person would be today if he or she had decided instead for a position in management. In the opinion of some labor law experts, the current Works Constitution Act does not contain any clear guidelines on corresponding remuneration corridors or on which professional comparison groups are to be used when classifying a senior works council.

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