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SAO PAULO, Brazil, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The week-long strike involving 16,000
Brazilian workers at German automaker Volkswagen AG's second largest plant in
the world is likely to end on Monday after the company agreed to suspend 3,000
layoffs, a union leader said on Saturday.
ABC Metalworkers Union president Luiz Marinho returned from VW headquarters in Germany on Saturday with what he believes is ``a proposal that will become an accord.''
``There have been many changes,'' Marinho said as he arrived in the Sao Paulo airport. ``Before, the VW proposal had no input from the unions and now this one has several of our demands.''
He declined to give details of the conditions linked to suspending the 3,000 layoffs, but said that workers are likely to see wages and working hours cut by 15 percent to get VW through a sales slump caused by an economic slowdown.
Marinho, a much respected negotiator in the auto industry, said he managed to convince the company to drop the idea of laying off 0.5 percent of the Anchieta factory's workforce each month to bring in new workers who would be 30 percent cheaper.
Marinho said that workers will discuss the proposal at an assembly on Monday at the Anchieta factory, where 20 percent of the workforce was cut 10 days ago. VW employs 26,800 people in Brazil and is the car market leader with 27 percent share.
``It would be good to have some hours to debate with the workers so they can make a conscientious decision,'' Marinho said.
He said a final approval may not be possible on Monday but the strike could be called off while waiting for the decision.
``Certainly, the trend is for the strike to end,'' Marinho said.
The walkout, one of the biggest industrial strikes in Brazil in recent years, has been peaceful. For each day of the strike, VW lost production of up to 900 cars.
Marinho said the accord will be valid for five years and aims to ensure that
the 42-year-old Anchieta factory keeps high on the list in VW's production plans.
The average salary at Anchieta is 1,600 reais ($630) per month, which is around 30 percent higher than the average of autoworker wages in other areas in Brazil but far below the 5,000 reais ($2,000) average for VW workers in Germany.
Of the 3,000 employees laid off, 1,500 will return to work immediately while the other 1,500 will receive paid leave until Jan. 31.
During that time, the union and management will work on a voluntary redundancy plan with the objective of getting 700 workers to sign up.
``The future will be decided by the investments envisaged in the accord,'' Marinho said, without giving more details.
The investment plan should include the introduction of a new Polo model line for export and participation in a new model under development, the Tupi, which may substitute the Gol, the best-selling compact in Brazil for the last decade.
Marinho flew to Germany on Wednesday after negotiations with Brazil VW president Herbert Demel had hit an impasse.
It was not the first time the leader of Brazil's top metalworkers union had gone abroad to try to protect jobs in the ABC, the cluster of satellite cities outside Sao Paulo that is the cradle of both Brazil's car industry and organised labour.
This year, Marinho has struck agreements with Ford Motor Co and Whirlpool Corporation to reverse job cuts or delay factory closures.
SAO PAULO, Brazil, Nov 16 (Reuters) - German automaker Volkswagen AG "I can
confirm that the layoffs may be reversed, but not as we would like," Celso Horta,
the spokesman for the ABC Metalworkers Union, told Reuters.
An initial accord on the dismissals at VW's biggest Brazilian plant was made between ABC Union president Luiz Marinho and VW management in Germany in meetings over the last two days. Marinho traveled to VW headquarters in Wolfsburg after hitting an impasse with local management.
On Monday, the union had called an indefinite strike by the 16,000 workers at the Anchieta plant to protest VW's collective dismissal of 3,000 employees there in one of the biggest industrial walkouts in Brazil in recent years. VW has lost production of up to 900 cars per day.
Horta said Marinho had boarded a flight back to Brazil and had no further details on VW's counter-proposal.
Marinho told Brazilian news agency Estado, "We got what we wanted, but we're not quite there." Estado said the accord would be for five years.
Union leaders are due to discuss the conditions over the weekend before presenting them to the striking workers at an assembly at dawn on Monday.
Those conditions could include issues that have come up in previous negotiations, Horta said, such as a change in the wage structure and a four-day work week.
In the ABC -- the cluster of the industrial cities of Santo Andre, Sao Bernardo do Campo and Sao Caetano 13 miles (20 km) from Sao Paulo -- auto worker wages are around 30 percent higher than in other areas of Brazil. The area is known as the cradle of the car industry and organized labor.
VW in Germany said it would not comment on the accord until Brazilian management
had done so. Meanwhile, the Brazilian press office said it had no news on the
talks from Germany.
The layoffs, which represent 11 percent of VW's 26,800 workers in Brazil, came after the union refused last week to accept a 15 percent cut in working hours and wages proposed in response to the downturn in the car market.
VW, the market leader in Brazil, said the job cuts were also needed for the introduction of more modern assembly lines that require less staff.
Marinho, known in the industry for his calm but canny negotiating skills, argued that the onus of VW's troubles should not lie on workers, but rather on management to speed up the introduction of new models.
VW had 42 percent of the market 20 years ago, but now only controls 27 percent. Italy's Fiat, meanwhile, has snuck up on VW to control 26 of Latin America's largest market.
Brazilian media have speculated that VW could agree to transfer some new production to the 42-year-old Anchieta factory in Sao Bernardo.
Estado de S. Paulo newspaper said VW could bring to Anchieta the production of a new model derived from the Polo for export only. Also, the new Tupi model under development could be produced in Anchieta.
Although VW is one of the biggest private companies operating in Brazil, its operations are only a fraction of the German giant's global pie. South America accounts for just six percent of worldwide revenue.
(with additional reporting by Renata de Freitas) (Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limite)
Volks May Hire Back If Workers Accept Wages Reduction
SÃO PAULO The Metal Workers Union of ABC region in São Paulo announced today that Volkswagen is going to hire back the 3,000 workers dismissed from São Bernardo plant last week. The unions chairman, Luiz Marinho, traveled to Germany to negotiate with VW's world management.
Volkswagens press advisory doesnt officially confirm the information. But, Marinho said to the local press that a meeting would be held next Monday, in which the 16,000 workers will discuss the carmaker proposition.
Wages and hours of work reduction are some of the conditions for hiring back workers. Marinho met in Wolfsburg with the carmaker vice-chairman for human relations, Peter Hartz, Volkswagens chairman in Brazil, Herbert Demel, and Hans Jurg, Volkswagens employee and member of the Union International Committee.
The union official returns to Brazil this Saturday. The layoffs were announced after the carmaker received a negative answer by workers on its initial proposition of reducing hours of work and wages by 15%.
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