GERMANY: Works council calls for more Wolfsburg capacity
The head of Volkswagen's works council, Bernd Osterloh, has called for capacity at the automaker's main plant in Wolfsburg to be expanded if demand for Volkswagen cars continues to be strong.
According to Automobilwoche, he said that it is possible that all areas used to build the previous Golf could be used for the current and next generation Golf. At the moment, extra weekend shifts will meet high demand.
Osterloh also said that the works council believes that capacity in the bodyshop and in assembly should be expanded as part of the EUR100m investment promised as part of the 2006 wage negotiations. He said that capacity needed to be expanded substantially so that all the work could be done during the week, particularly if a third model is to be built at the plant, as management promised last year. It is still not clear what model this will be. The Golf and Golf Plus are currently built at Wolfsburg, while Volkswagen's subsidiary, Auto 5000, builds the Touran.
The extra weekend shifts are expected to last until the end of July when the plant shuts down for its summer break. The shifts are needed because demand for the Golf, both in Europe and outside of Europe, is higher than expected. As part of wage agreements made last year, workers can decide whether to be paid overtime for the weekend work or to take time off in lieu. Those wage agreements also momentously resulted in the adoption of a 36-hour week, after Wolfsburg workers had on the job just four days a week.
Separately, Osterloh called for vehicle manufacturers to increase their influence over suppliers. Speaking to a Berlin newspaper, he said that German automakers should buy shares in strategically important supplier companies to help ensure future quality, price and reliability. This would be preferable to private equity companies, which are currently taking a growing interest in the supplier industry. In Germany the sector comprises a large number of medium-sized family companies.
"Financial investors are just after a high return. If this does not happen the company will be sold," said Osterloh. Automakers could end up short of suppliers.