Clear rules to protect employees
- HR Board Member appeals: continue to act in a disciplined way over Easter
- Brandstätter and Osterloh: health protection is the absolute priority for the resumption of production
- Company management and General Works Council set binding standards
- Objectives: protection, safety, information, transparency, clear orientation
For the resumption of production at Volkswagen, health takes priority over speed. For this reason, company management and the General Works Council have laid down clear rules and measures for the protection of employees in a works agreement. Volkswagen HR Board Member Gunnar Kilian says: “We are taking comprehensive precautions so that our employees can work safely. We also appeal to each and every employee: continue to act in a disciplined way over Easter, keep your distance, stay at home and help to limit the spread of coronavirus. For Volkswagen, one thing is clear: the federal and state governments have our full support in their fight against coronavirus.” As regards the resumption of production, it has only been decided that a few units of Components, which have continued operation to some extent, will extend their operations to safeguard the supply of components to plants in China from the Tuesday after Easter. This will concern a total of 1,700 employees at the Brunswick, Kassel, Salzgitter, Chemnitz and Hanover Components plants. They will be informed by their line managers. Apart from these operations, production at the Components and vehicle plants continues to be suspended. Further details of the mode of operation are expected after Easter. The objective of the new works agreement is to take precautions against coronavirus at an early stage in order to prevent infections. Production processes are being optimized and consistent minimum distances and strict hygiene standards will apply in all areas. Where minimum distances of 1.5 meters are not possible, all employees will receive appropriate protective equipment.
Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operation Officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, says: “The protection and health of our workforce take priority. Nothing is more important for us. Our employees can rely on us doing everything possible to ensure that they can work safely. This is why we have set clear standards together with the General Works Council and defined a timetable for the various phases in the return to normal operation.“
The Chairman of the General Works Council, Bernd Osterloh, emphasizes: “Before the start of short-time working, we ensured that a reliable timetable would be adopted and provided certainty as to when and how production would be discontinued. The same certainty will also apply to the resumption of production: for the employees, health, reliable planning and communications have priority at all times. In case of doubt, we would rather produce one fewer vehicle than take any risks. Our colleagues want to resume work. With the new rules, we have laid appropriate foundations.”
The resumption of production will be accompanied by a comprehensive package of measures; the resumption will be divided into several phases. In phase 1, maximum precautions will apply and these will gradually be reduced until normal operation is reached in phase 4. The transitions will be agreed between the company and the Works Council.
The package of measures includes specific rules on distances and hygiene, an obligation to wear mouth and nose protection in areas, where minimum distances of 1.5 meters are not possible, harmonized cleaning intervals, the separation of shifts in order to avoid contacts and a call on employees to measure their temperature under their own responsibility before starting work each day. All in all, the changes to ensure optimized procedures cover more than 90 thematic areas.
The main emphasis is on production. In close cooperation with the Works Council, expert teams have adapted processes and in some cases thoroughly revised them. In phase 1, production will be slower than normal. In addition to changes in procedures, which require more time, work cycles will be optimized to ensure that distances are maintained and contacts are minimized.
For the office departments, adjustments will apply; some of these have already been tried and tested in practice in departments such as Technical Development. For example, the flexitime band can be extended where necessary to ensure time intervals in the indirect areas. For the same reason, employees engaged in mobile working are called upon to work from home as much as possible until further notice.
All the rules also apply to employees of external partners and service providers.