Volkswagen Slovakia workers win wage hike, end strike

Bratislava (AFP) - Unions at Volkswagen Slovakia said on Sunday they were ending a six-day strike after agreeing a 14.1 percent wage hike with management at the eurozone country's largest private employer.

"We are ending our strike," trade union chief Zoroslav Smolinsky told journalists after marathon negotiations with the bosses at the Bratislava plant.

VW spokeswoman Lucia Kovarovic Makayova told AFP that the agreed 14.1 percent pay rise will be made in three instalments and completed by November 2018.

Workers will also get a one-off bonus of 500 euros and an extra day off, according to the spokeswoman.

Currently, the average salary in the Bratislava VW plant is 1,800 euros ($2,014), excluding managers' pay packets, according to the company.

Slovakia's average salary is 980 euros.

Workers launched the strike on Tuesday after management rejected union demands for a 16 percent wage hike, offering an eight percent rise instead.

Smolinsky said that up to 10,000 of the plant's 12,300 employees downed tools for the first time since production began at the site in 1992.

The strike stopped the production of luxury SUVs like the Touareg or the Audi Q7.

Slovakia's leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico supported the workers' wage demands.

"If we know that there is the highest productivity and the highest quality in Bratislava, they produce the most expensive cars in the whole company, why should workers here earn one third of the salary of their (German) colleagues in the same company?", Fico told a local radio station on Saturday.

According to the Slovak autoworkers union, the starting salary in German VW factories is 2,037 euros, while in Slovakia it is 679 euros.

The strike was peaceful as workers laid down blankets, played cards and cooled off in a fountain outside the VW plant amid a heatwave that saw temperatures soar to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) Bratislava in recent days.

The factory produces more than 1,000 cars a day and a total 388,697 vehicles rolled off its production line last year.

Models include the luxury Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 vehicles, among others.

The new Lamborghini Urus luxury cars will also be made using parts produced in Bratislava.

The five-millionth car produced in the plant rolled off the production line on June 15th. The white Touareg was produced for a customer in Australia.

Last year, just over a million automobiles were produced in Slovakian factories owned by Kia, Peugeot and VW.