US auto workers at VW plant reject bid to unionize

United Auto Workers Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith speaks with the media as UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg listens during a news conference, Friday, June 14, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, after unionization failed for workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant. (AP)
Updated 15 June 2019
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US auto workers at VW plant reject bid to unionize

  • The UAW has never managed to fully organize a US plant owned by a foreign manufacturer
  • A win at the German carmaker’s Chattanooga facility would have been a significant victory

DETROIT: The United Auto Workers union has suffered a fresh defeat at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, with workers narrowly voting down a move to organize the factory for a second time.
The UAW has never managed to fully organize a US plant owned by a foreign manufacturer and a win at the German carmaker’s Chattanooga facility would have been a significant victory.
But the 1,700-strong workforce at the factory rejected the move by a margin of 833-776 in a ballot that concluded Friday.
The organizing effort was attacked by state Republicans and hampered by an ongoing federal corruption probe, with a former vice president of the auto union soon to be sentenced after pleading guilty to misappropriating funds.
“Pending certification of the results by the National Labor Relations Board and a legal review of the election, Volkswagen will respect the decision of the majority,” said the carmaker’s Chattanooga plant chief Frank Fischer.
“We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with elected officials and business leaders in Tennessee.”
UAW organizing director Tracy Romero said the company had engineered a defeat in the vote through “fear and misinformation.”
“Over a period of nine weeks — an unprecedented length of time due to legal gamesmanship --Volkswagen was able to break the will of enough workers to destroy their majority,” she added.
A 2014 vote to organize the factory was defeated by a 53-47 percent margin after stiff opposition from local politicians, who warned that a UAW victory would make it harder to attract new jobs to Tennessee.
A smaller ballot of 160 skilled workers at the plant passed by a wide margin the next year, but Volkswagen challenged the result.
Political interference and the current state of US labor laws contributed to Friday’s defeat, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said.
“This is a system designed to benefit corporate lawyers, not protect worker rights,” he added.


Unaoil’s former Iraq partner pleads guilty to bribery

Updated 19 July 2019
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Unaoil’s former Iraq partner pleads guilty to bribery

  • It is the first guilty plea to result from a three-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into suspected bribery and money laundering
  • Unaoil is a Monaco-based oil and gas firm

LONDON: The former partner in Iraq for Unaoil, a Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy, has pleaded guilty to five counts of bribery in the first conviction in a three-year criminal investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Basil Al Jarah, 70, pleaded guilty on July 15 to conspiring to give corrupt payments in connection with the award of contracts to supply and install single point moorings and oil pipelines in southern Iraq, the SFO said.
Al Jarah’s conviction, which comes six months before three other defendants in the case face a criminal trial in London, was announced after a judge lifted reporting restrictions in a pre-trial hearing on Friday, the SFO said.
Ziad Akle, Unaoil’s former territory manager for Iraq and Stephen Whiteley and Paul Bond, who worked for Dutch-based oil and gas services company SBM (Offshore), have pleaded not guilty.
Akle, 44, has been charged with three offenses of conspiracy to make corrupt payments. Bond, a 67-year-old former senior sales manager with SBM (Offshore), and Whiteley, a 64-year-old former vice president of SBM (Offshore) and one-time Unaoil general territories manager for Iraq, Kazakhstan and Angola, each face two counts.
Sam Healey, a lawyer at JMW Solicitors who is representing Whiteley, said his client “strenuously denied” all alleged offenses.
“Mr Whiteley co-operated fully with the SFO as they opened their enquiries and will rigorously defend the charges,” he said.
Lawyers for Al Jarah and Bond declined to comment. A lawyer for Akle was not immediately available for comment.
A spokeswoman for Unaoil declined to comment, while SBM Offshore has said it is company policy to not comment on past or current employees.