Volkswagen denies Qatar sought to curb labour union influence

Management held talks with Qatar Investment Authority, which holds a 17% stake in the German automaker

PHOTO: In September, Volkswagen admitted to cheating US diesel emission tests through the use of illegal software in some of its cars. Credit: Shutterstock

Volkswagen has denied a report saying its CEO and chairman were urged by Qatari backers to reduce the influence of labour unions as the German automaker struggles to overcome the emissions scandal.

The company’s chief executive Matthias Mueller and chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch met with the leaders of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in Doha on Sunday to discuss ongoing investigations into Volkswagen’s cheating of emissions tests, Reuters reported.

A German newspaper earlier reported that the QIA would use the meeting to demand a scaling back of the influence of labour representatives on the board. Representatives of Volkswagen’s works council hold as many seats on the German firm’s 20-member supervisory board as shareholders, and the body has long wielded influence to head off cost cuts in the past.

“Co-determination (joint decision-making by corporate and labour representatives) and the (role of the) works council were not on the agenda of the talks,” said a Volkswagen spokesman, quoted by Reuters.

The Volkswagen works council and the QIA, which holds a 17% stake in the firm, declined to comment.

In September this year, Volkswagen admitted to cheating US diesel emission tests through the use of illegal software in some of its cars, enabling it to detect when they were being tested and temporarily reduce toxic emissions. The scandal proved to be among the most complex and costly fixes undertaken in automotive history, with Volkswagen announcing plans to refit 11 million vehicles worldwide.

The emissions scandal led to the resignation of former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who was replaced by Mueller, the former chief executive of Porsche.

The automaker will have to make massive cuts to meet a bill that analysts say could cross 40 billion euros ($44 billion) in fines, lawsuits and vehicle refits, Reuters reported.

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