Trade unions at Volkswagen's Skoda Auto reject wage offer, prepare strike

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Skoda is seen during the 87th International Motor Show at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Trade unions at Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE Skoda Auto plants in the Czech Republic have rejected a wage offer from the carmaker and started preparations for a possible extended strike, the unions said on Thursday.

Details of the offer have not been disclosed but the unions said it was just enough to cover the country’s inflation rate of just over 2 percent - conditional on workers agreeing to a changed pattern of shifts.

“The employer’s wage growth offer is a zero at the moment, because the ridiculous initial proposals by the company were based on introducing an atypical shift system,” the unions said in a statement on their website.

A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the state of negotiations. Skoda Auto’s board will discuss the situation on Feb. 19.

Skoda, which has become Volkswagen’s second-most profitable brand in terms of operating margin, reported another record year in 2017 with global sales up 6.6 percent to 1.2 million vehicles.

Strikes rarely take place in the European Union member country which boasts the bloc’s lowest unemployment thanks to robust economic growth.

Skoda’s Czech plants accounted for 60.7 percent of the country’s car production in 2017, followed by Hyundai Motor and a joint plant of Toyota and Peugeot Citroen (TPCA). It also operates plants in China, India and Russia.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Adrian Croft and David Holmes