WORKERS at the Bratislava factory of German automaker Volkswagen went on strike alert on March 11 calling for a salary increase under the provisions of a collective agreement that expires at the end of March. The local trade union organisation says that their demands have already borne fruit.
“Initially, the company managers didn't consider raising pay,” said Zoroslav Smolinský, the boss of the trade union organisation, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “Things have been set in motion in that direction.”
Volkswagen Slovakia did not deny the reports but added that it would not release the results of negotiations with unions until they are completed.
“There is enough time by the end of the month, which is why we are confident that we will reach a mutually favourable agreement,” said Volkswagen Slovakia spokesperson Vladimír Machalík, as quoted by TASR.
Smolinský refused to provide specific figures, but said that the company’s management is pushing for “Slovak conditions” while the unions want “European conditions”.
The average monthly wage of VW Slovakia’s employees excluding management was €1,200 last year, according to the Sme daily. It also cited Emil Machyna, boss of the KOVO trade union, according to whom the local trade unions in VW Slovakia want a wage raise covering inflation and “something above this”. Employees themselves referred to an increase of 3.6 percent. They are also seeking a one-off payment from the company.
According to Smolinský, nearly all employees, meaning 90-100 percent, joined the strike alert. Participants are wearing stickers on their clothing, but production is continuing unaffected. Union leaders say they are prepared to move to stronger protests if the bargaining continues without success.
In Germany Volkswagen has promised to maintain employment in its factories and increase wages by 4.2 percent next year.
However, Ľuboš Vančo, the director general of accountancy firm KPMG Slovensko said he regards the present initiative by trade unions at VW Slovakia as absurd.
“This is not the wisest [approach], especially right now,” he said, as quoted by Sme, adding that even though the automotive industry is reviving, it is far from reaching the level of previous years. He also pointed out that it was Volkswagen which introduced so-called flexi-accounts for working hours in order to maintain employment in the factory and help employees.
22. Mar 2010 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff