After six days on the picket line workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Bratislava, Slovakia, went back to work June 26 winning a 14 percent pay raise over two years, a €500 ($570) signing bonus and an extra day off. Sign above held by workers during strike tells the bosses: “Do not humiliate us.”
More than 10,000 of the plant’s 12,300 workers walked out after bosses rejected the union’s demand for a 16 percent raise. This is the first strike since the plant opened in 1992 and the first in a major Slovak factory since the country declared independence on Jan. 1, 1993. Workers build models like the Porsche Cayenne, the VW Touareg and Audi Q7.
Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004. Auto capitalists have since invested big in the country in chase of cheap labor and high profits. Today Slovakia is the largest car producer per capita in the world with 1 million vehicles churned out last year. Along with Kia and Peugeot Citroen, VW operates the largest plants.
The average wage at Volkswagen’s main plant in Germany is 2.5 times higher than at the plant in Bratislava, a gap workers are fighting to close.
Auto bosses at Kia in Slovakia, and Mercedes-Benz and VW in Hungary have also felt the pressure to give hefty pay raises to avoid strikes recently, often after workers staged “lightning” work stoppages.