More than 40,000 workers in Volkswagen’s plant in Wolfsburg and other German production sites stopped work for an hour yesterday to discuss the dispute with Porsche over future co-determination rights.
According to dpa-AFX, the Volkswagen workforce is feeling disturbed and insecure about possible future developments in the company, should Porsche acquire a majority shareholding.
Workers’ representatives have been calling for increased representation on the board of the Porsche Holding SE. This is a new umbrella organisation for Porsche’s shares in Porsche and Volkswagen Group, which would effectively take control of Volkswagen if Porsche became the majority shareholder. Its board will comprise 12 members, compared to 20 on the current Volkswagen board. Porsche workers and Volkswagen workers would each have three seats on the board. At present workers have 10 seats on the Volkswagen board.
Volkswagen’s works council, which represents the company’s workers, has been arguing that its should have more representatives on the board than Porsche’s works council as it has many more employees. Volkswagen employs 324,000 people, while Porsche employs just 12,000.
The issue has become more pertinent since last week when the European Court of Justice overturned the so-called Volkswagen Law, which has limited voting rights of any shareholder to 20%, regardless of how many shares they hold. This has effectively given workers a lot more control in major decision-making, since one of the shareholders is the state of Lower Saxony, which has an interest in maintaining employment levels in the state.
Volkswagen workers representatives have some justification for concerns that their rights will be diminished under Porsche’s influence. Porsche CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, recently referred to the tradition of co-determination at Volkswagen as a ‘holy cow’. The meeting yesterday has highlighted workers concerns. One opportunity for protecting workers co-determination rights could come from a re-writing of the VW Law, to give workers an effective power of veto by requiring a two-thirds majority decision on major issues such as where future models will be built, and/or requiring workers to be in agreement.