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To be or not to be for a new collective agreement at Volkswagen

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9 November, 2016Members of IndustriALL affiliate Interregional Trade Union Workers Association (ITUWA) at the Volkswagen plant in Kaluga, Russia, are fighting for a new collective agreement.

The current agreement expires on 31 December, and so far neither the employer nor the employees have taken the initiative of signing a new one.

On 7 November, only 20 per cent of the staff - members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Interregional Trade Union "Workers Association" (ITUWA) - understand that concluding a new collective agreement depends on workers.

If the union density remains the same, the employees of Volkswagen will start the next year without a collective agreement and workers will lose most of their benefits:

  • There will be no increase of salaries
  • Employees will work for 100 hours a year more for free
  • There will not be four additional days off
  • Lump sums for vacation and after vacation will be cancelled
  • Payment for night work will be reduced from 40 to 20 per cent
  • Assignment of professional grades will depend on managers and Human Resources again, and not on experience
  • Housing project, car subsidy programme, support programme for pensioners etc will be cancelled

ITUWA has set itself the ambitious plan to double their membership. Reaching the double size membership would allow to defend workers’ position in negotiations. The union is under pressure from the management to start collective bargaining in their current weaker position.

“1,100 ITUWA's members are sure that a collective agreement is necessary, other employees are indifferent. We need 2,500 union members to win,”

says Dmitry Trudovoj, chair of the Kaluga regional organization ITUWA.

In 2013, the employer attempted to approve a new schedule. Union membership has increased by some 1,000 people in two months. This helped to strengthen the union’s influence, and a new work schedule including reduction of workforce was rejected.

In September ITUWA recruited 18 members, in October — 22. Many workers join the union, but most of them leave afterwards. Out of 50 – 60 recruited last month, only 18 – 20 members remained.

Dmitry Trudovoj states:

“In fact, available ITUWA's membership is enough to conclude a new collective agreement. But the quality of the concluded collective agreement and the size of benefits depend on the power of the union. During the economic downturn it is even a challenge to defend the previous agreement, let along discussing something extra. That is why we encourage employees to join the union, since the quality of the new collective agreement will depend on how active they are».