SUV decision not tied to UAW, labor leader says

SUV decision not tied to UAW, labor leader says

November 16th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Volkswagen builds vehicles in Hamilton County.

Volkswagen builds vehicles in Hamilton County.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

A top Volkswagen labor official said Thursday that a pending decision about union representation for workers at the automaker's lone U.S. plant will have no bearing on whether the company will decide to add the production of another SUV vehicle there or make it in Mexico.

Bernd Osterloh, head of the Volkswagen's global works councils and a member of the company's supervisory board, said that while the company's dedication to "co-determination" supports the creation of works councils at all its plants, market forces will decide whether the Chattanooga plant is expanded.

"Those two things have nothing to do with each other," Osterloh said during the interview with The Associated Press, which was conducted in German. "The decision about a vehicle will always be made along economic and employment policy lines. It has absolutely nothing to do with the whole topic about whether there is a union there or not."

Osterloh met Thursday with workers and managers at VW's Chattanooga plant and with Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Labor representatives, who make up half of the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker's supervisory board, have pressured VW management to enter discussions about union representation at the Chattanooga plant because U.S. law requires that any works council be created through an established union.

Osterloh said he takes no position on whether the company should automatically recognize the union, and that it's up to management to decide whether to require a vote.

"Volkswagen is led by its board, and not by politicians," he said. "The board will certainly make the right decision."