As many as 11 representatives of the Volkswagen Employees’ Union have gone on an indefinite hunger strike from January 8 over unsettled wages at German automaker Volkswagen’s manufacturing plant at Chakan, Pune. The ongoing protest takes a strong stand against the employer's plans to introduce a new remuneration scheme that includes a performance-related wage component.
Though the company has claimed that only two workers are protesting, more than a hundred workers have extended their support to the protesting union members.
The current shove began by the end of 2016 but even after 14 months there has been no solution to the main point of contention- how to introduce the ‘performance-based’ part to the salary.
"For the last 14 months, we have not received any increment. We have held several rounds of talks with the management but they have not yielded in any fruitful solution. Hence, we have resorted to the hunger strike. We have urged our members not to stop production work," said Tushar Mhase, Volkswagen Employees Union president.
For last one year, there have been 36 meetings between the union and administration, but no progress has been made. The company officials, however, asserted that the management had made a “firm” proposal to the union, regarding new wage agreement.
"Volkswagen wanted 80 percent of the salary to be fixed and remaining 20 percent based on performance." The workers say that it would result in significant wage decrease during the implementation of this scheme. The wage revision of the company had expired in December 2016, since then the talks were on between the workers and company. Usually, the wage revision is undertaken by auto companies once in three years.
Recently Volkswagen said that the company achieved a record production of over 1,50,000 vehicles at its plant in 2017 which was over 20% more than in 2016. It is clear that the company stepped into achievements at the cost of workers.
While talking about the production Mhase added: "We don't intend to stop production and so our members have not stopped working but as a mark of protest they are not having breakfast and lunch provided by the company."
The workers also said that “The company has said that the production needs to be ramped up to 550 cars per day which were 500 cars per day in 2017 and the outcome of the same will be tied to wages”.
"It is achievable if there are no breakdowns and there is more manpower," Mhase said, adding that "the company has not paid any heed to this."
The company claimed that there have been 36 meetings with the workers for close to a year but no headway could be made. An official spokesperson of the company said, "The management has made a 'firm' proposal to the union regarding new wage agreement. This has not been accepted by the union. The union's action resorting to an unlawful strike to pressurise the management to accept their demands is not seen as a right approach by the management." However, "The Management has still kept its doors open to the Union to come and discuss the matter", the spokesperson added.
The Volkswagen Employees union, however, made it clear that as negotiations have led nowhere, they will continue the fast until death.