Volkswagen CEO speaks to workers to try to ease conflict

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess sought to defuse a clash over the pace of reform needed to challenge Tesla for the electric vehicle throne when he addressed workers at the carmaker’s Wolfsburg plant on Thursday.

“Only as a team can we make Volkswagen future-proof,” Diess told a staff meeting, also attended by works council boss Daniela Cavallo, Lower Saxony state premier Stephan Weil and Joerg Hofmann, the head of powerful trade union IG Metall.

Diess, whose ambition to push reforms to catch up with Tesla has drawn criticism from labour representatives, acknowledged the efforts workers had made in transforming Volkswagen to make sure it can compete in a sector subject to dramatic change.

His comments came after Cavallo criticised Diess for his communication style in recent weeks, which she said fuelled concerns among workers that the transformation will result in tens of thousands of job cuts.

“We’re tired of hearing time and again that the works council is apparently only concerned with preserving the status quo,” she said, adding workers and labour representatives were all backing the needed overhaul.

A specially convened Volkswagen committee will discuss the future of Diess, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, after the conflict with labour representatives flared up again.

(Reporting by Christoph SteitzEditing by Keith Weir)

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