Volkswagen Slovakia increases wages by 3%

The automotive industry in Slovakia is overcoming the recession and trade unions are demanding higher wages. Volkswagen Slovakia, hit by the economic downturn in 2009, has agreed a wage increase of 3%, with a one-off payment to employees of €215. The unions had threatened strike action in March 2010, when initial bargaining failed, but within a few weeks an agreement was met for 2010–2011.

Automotive industry recovers from crisis

The automotive industry in Slovakia is producing new models after overcoming the recent downturn. Volkswagen Slovakia, based in Bratislava, has brought out an improved version of the 4WD Touareg and is preparing to produce a new small family car in 2011. Employees’ wages were kept down by the recession in 2009. But trade union pressure to increase wages intensified in March 2010, as previous agreements neared expiry. Negotiations took place with the Metal Trade Union Association (OZ KOVO). Emil Machyna, Chair of OZ Kovo, said he would like wages in mechanical engineering to increase by 3.2% and by 2.5% in the electric and energy industry. However, Martin Hošták, Secretary of the National Union of Employers (RÚZ SR) said the wage demands were not justifiable at present, and should be postponed until next year.

Initial wage negotiations fail

Volkswagen Slovakia cut production and reduced staff in 2009. Trades unions demanded higher wages because the company is expected to increase production. However, Ľuboš Vančo, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the professional services company KPMG Slovakia, said the industry, although recovering, had still not reached its pre-crisis level of production. When the unions at Volkswagen Slovakia did not succeed in concluding an agreement in their first round of bargaining, they threatened strike action for March 2010.

Wage increase agreed

Wage negotiations continued and Volkswagen and the unions reached an agreement valid until 31 March 2011. Wages will increase by 3%, with workers also receiving a one-off payment of €215. Bohdan Wojnar, Volkswagen’s Human Resources Director said: ‘Our qualified and motivated employees are the basis of our business success. Our team, despite difficult economic conditions, worked to their full potential in order to supply our customers with first-class cars in top quality. This hard work has paid off now’ (Newspaper Pravda, 22 March 2010). Zoroslav Smolinský, Chair of the trade union at the Volkswagen plant, stated: ‘We managed to reach what we wanted.’ The planned strike for March was called off.

Ludovit Cziria, Institute for Labour and Family Research

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