VW, UAW officials to meet on labor dispute at Tennessee plant

Reuters News
Posted: May 02, 2016 2:34 PM

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> and United Auto Workers union officials will meet later this month in an effort to overcome a labor dispute at the VW plant in Tennessee.

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and Karlheinz Blessing, human resources representative on the VW Board of Management, will meet in Germany in a bid to come to terms over the dispute, a UAW spokesman said on Monday.

Late last year, a majority of the maintenance, or skilled trades, workers at VW's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted to be represented by the union. The vote marked a rare victory for the UAW in the U.S. South, where it has fought many unsuccessful battles to organize nonunionized auto plants.

But the full plant, which has 1,500 hourly workers, rejected UAW representation in a vote the union narrowly lost in February 2014 and the automaker has resisted demands that it begin bargaining with the UAW over wages and benefits for the skilled trades workers.

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against VW for not bargaining with the skilled trades workers. The automaker has until May 10 to respond to the complaint, but has already said it plans to take the issue to U.S. courts once the NLRB process is exhausted.

Though Volkswagen's stance appears to be aimed at blocking the UAW, it has said that it only wants all its hourly employees to decide on whether to accept union representation before resolving the dispute.

VW said last week it "will continue our effort to allow everyone to vote as one group on the matter of union representation."

Casteel, in a statement, noted that VW has divided workforce representation within the same plants in Italy, Russia and Spain.

"Volkswagen’s own policy for engaging employees in Chattanooga encourages the development of multiple representation groups," Casteel said.

The disagreement comes as VW, which works closely with unions in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, is grappling with a global crisis over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

The May meeting of UAW and VW officials was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Tom Brown)