The board of directors and the works council argue: the air at Daimler is tough


At the moment, the car manufacturer in Stuttgart does not look like a peaceful pre-Christmas period. Works council and board of directors argue about the future course and savings plans. The situation could escalate this week.

On Thursday, the works council and the union want to symbolically hand over 170,000 protest postcards to the Daimler board member Ola Källenius and the supervisory board chairman Manfred Bischoff – one card is available for each Daimler employee. 170,000 postcards could not be collected, but several tens of thousands, a spokesman for the works council told Further protests could follow – before the eagerly awaited collective bargaining disputes.

“Transformation, Covid, recession. The workforce makes its contribution to all challenges: qualifications, hygiene rules, savings. But it is not enough for the board,” criticizes the general works council chairman Michael Brecht. “In the factories, the workers tremble and are afraid for their future. The administrative staff feels rejected.”

Engine production in China instead of Germany

The automaker’s plans to relocate engine production to China initially caused displeasure. “We are stunned. Not even discussions about alternative production locations were possible,” scolded Michael Häberle, head of the works council at the main plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. The location can also manufacture four-cylinder engines.

The works council was particularly annoyed by the announcement by Daimler management that it would be terminating unlimited 40-hour contracts. This means that those affected are only allowed to work the usual 35 hours per week and earn less accordingly.

Relocation of crankshaft production to Untertürkheim

Now the site plans for the new crankshaft production are fueling the dispute with the works council. The Daimler management plans to produce the crankshafts in the future in the main plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. That would jeopardize the planned e-campus, the electromobility competence center in the main plant. Because there is not enough space on the site for the campus and crankshaft production.

The two Daimler board members Markus Schäfer and Jörg Burzer are even threatening the end of the planned competence center for electromobility if the employee representatives continue to insist on their demands. The works council insists that compensation in the form of other production orders be created for any work that is lost in the course of the switch to e-cars – as was once agreed with the company.

No more space for the E-Campus?

Although the agreements concluded a year ago were sensible and correct from the point of view at the time, the situation has changed fundamentally, the managers counter. “Sticking to the status quo is therefore not an option.” One thing is clear: “If the new crankshaft production comes in full to Untertürkheim, we will have to examine alternative scenarios for the Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems campus.

A Daimler spokeswoman confirmed that various alternatives are currently being examined. In order to implement future technologies in Untertürkheim as planned, the appropriate conditions would have to be created there, for example in terms of the areas. This also includes the fact that one cannot stick to the traditional portfolio. However, one continues to strive for a constructive solution together with the employee representatives.

“A Trojan Horse”

The works council chief Häberle from Untertürkheim speaks of a “slap in the face”. The board of directors also unsettled the employees by threatening to transfer important future topics to other locations. “We are increasingly getting the impression that the e-campus on offer is primarily a ‘Trojan horse’ with which the board is trying to overturn the rules agreed in Untertürkheim and to artificially force job cuts already today”, fears Häberle.

The mood in the truck sector is also heated. Thousands of positions are available there. “There is a risk of deforestation if we don’t defend ourselves!” The works councils at several locations recently wrote to the employees. “We can’t leave it like that,” replied the management in a letter, including Daimler Trucks CEO Daum and HR Director Jürgen Hartwig. “Clear cutting” implies “that we want to cut jobs arbitrarily, and that is simply wrong”.

Clear cutting in the truck sector?

One must, on the one hand, reduce costs, especially in Europe, and, on the other hand, create technological transformation. A dialogue is sought with the employee representatives in order to find the best solutions together. “But we want to tell you one thing quite frankly: We can only take measures that are economical,” writes the management. Therefore one has to be prepared for the fact that employment will disappear in some areas.

If the situation in the auto industry does not improve further in the next few months, the dispute between employees and the executive board could escalate. Even the works council chairman, 55-year-old Brecht, who once tried to compromise, is now unusually combative. “The board of directors overshoots the target. The workforce is not the enemy,” Brecht recently told the Handelsblatt. He complains that some of the works council’s arguments are no longer heard. “A relationship in which you refuse to go together doesn’t last long,” complains Brecht.

Brecht: Management “resistant to advice”

He also considers the termination of the 40-hour contracts to be premature. The Daimler management is currently resistant to advice, complains the deputy chairman of the supervisory board Brecht. After all: the corporate management is still ruling out redundancies for operational reasons in Germany until 2029. “We’re still a long way from the labor dispute,” a works council spokesman emphasized



SWR aktuell Baden-Württemberg reported on this topic on October 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

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