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Labor relations

Volkswagen workers at US plant to vote on union representation

Workers at German carmaker Volkswagen’s only US plant are set to vote on whether they want to be represented by the United Auto Workers. A vote in favour would provide a shot in the arm to the autoworkers union.

Volkswagen announced on Monday that workers at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, would be given the opportunity to cast their ballots from February 12-14 on whether they want to be represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW), the car industry's leading union in the US.

The vote is to be organized by the US National Labor Relations Board.

"Volkswagen Group of America and the UAW have agreed to this common path for the election," Frank Fischer, chairman and chief executive of Volkswagen Chattanooga said.

"Employees have the right to decide, by voting in a secret ballot election, on a matter that concerns their own interests," Sebastian Patta, the plant's vice president of human resources, said in a statement. "Volkswagen respects this democratic right at all locations worldwide."

German-style works council

If a majority of the more than 1,500 workers at the plant vote to bring in the UAW, the union and management have said they would work together to establish a German-style works council, which would represent staff with regard to issues such as working conditions.

The UAW itself would represent the workers in wage negotiations.

Under the state of Tennessee's right-to-work law, staff would not have to actually join the UAW to be represented on the council.

The Chattanooga plant, as well as two in China, are the only VW facilities among around 100 worldwide, which do not have works councils.

Approval would also provide a boost to the UAW, which has had little success so far in getting into foreign-owned car factories in the United States. It has been seeking to organize in foreign-owned plants in part to offset a long-term decline in its membership as the American big three, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have shut plants and hired fewer workers.

Some politicians and business leaders have expressed opposition to the possible move, fearing it would create a competitive disadvantage, making it more difficult to attract other employers to the region.

pfd/jr (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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