VW and UAW to Meet for Talks on Car Maker’s Chattanooga Plant – Wall Street Journal

Updated Might 1, 2016 7:40 p.m. ET

WOLFSBURG, Germany— Volkswagen AG
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and the United Auto Workers said Sunday that they will certainly comply with to attempt to iron out their differences, reopening a procedure that could cause talks over union representation of the workforce at the German vehicle maker’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant.

Volkswagen is challenging a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board to uphold a vote in favor of the UAW by the plant’s upkeep workers—a group of skilled tradesmen that sustain equipments and robots. 2 years ago, the factory’s broader population of hourly workers rejected union representation after a campaign marked by fierce political opposition.

The dispute threatens to open one more battle front for Volkswagen in the U.S., as the vehicle maker struggles to resolve its emissions-cheating scandal and prepares to begin production in Chattanooga of a brand-new midsize sport-utility automobile later this year.

An extensive fight along with labor could threaten the SUV’s launch. But, if the business chooses rather to reach out to the UAW, it could anger conservative lawmakers in Tennessee, that have actually threatened to withhold rewards for the Chattanooga plant if Volkswagen recognizes the union.

Karlheinz Blessing, a Volkswagen board member in charge of human resources, and Gary Casteel, the UAW treasury secretary, will certainly comply with later this month, initially to attempt to resolve a dispute over representation the plant’s upkeep workers, the 2 sides said. The business has actually declined to realize those workers as a bargaining unit, saying it doesn’t prefer the UAW to fragment its workforce.

“We have actually gained an supply to talk,” Mr. Blessing told reporters last week. “We can easily accept a vote of the entire workforce, However we cannot accept fragmentation.”

Union leaders are reluctant to hold one more vote of the plant’s production workers, alleging that Volkswagen encouraged the union to hold the 2014 vote also as business executives gained clandestine agreements along with Tennessee officials to maintain the union from the plant, or risk squandering millions of dollars in say incentives.

Volkswagen has actually said it preserved strict neutrality throughout the union’s organizing campaign.

Mr. Casteel, the UAW’s point man on foreign auto manufacturers, said that after the 2014 vote, Volkswagen pledged to realize the union if it could prove that a majority of the workforce were members. As portion of that agreement, the UAW dropped its legal objection to the outcome of the election.

Two months after squandering the vote, the UAW met along with members of Volkswagen’s management and human sources and compared names on UAW membership cards along with the employee list at the Chattanooga plant, identifying that a minimum of 55% of the employees were members of the union.

“They dedicated to realize us as the representative of their workers,” Mr. Casteel said in an interview. “We hope to relocate forward, not backward. We prefer them to live up to the dedications they made.”

The upkeep workers at the Chattanooga voted by a 71% majority in December to produce a collective bargaining unit, paving the means for them to negotiate for wages, incentives and Job rules. The vote additionally opens the door for wider union representation at the plant.

The NLRB recognized the vote, then dismissed Volkswagen’s request for a formal review of the decision.

The German vehicle maker has actually hired law firm Littler Mendelson PC, which specializes in labor law, to challenge the NLRB decision.

Union officials claim Volkswagen is in violation of U.S. labor law in avoiding to realize the upkeep workers as a collective-bargaining unit .

“That is their position, and we have actually another,” a Volkswagen spokesman said.

Write to William Boston at william.boston@wsj.com