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

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.


STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 13 July 2020

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”