Volkswagen. Picture: REUTERS/SUZANNE PLUNKETT
Volkswagen. Picture: REUTERS/SUZANNE PLUNKETT

Frankfurt — Volkswagen (VW) has told employees that it fired 204 staff for breaching company rules in the first quarter, as the German carmaker stiffens its response to internal misconduct in the aftermath of the diesel-cheating scandal that erupted in 2015.

About half the terminations involved work-time violations such as unexcused absence, according to an article published in the July edition of a staff newspaper seen by Bloomberg. Other reasons include property offences, ignoring drug and alcohol bans, and discrimination.

The world’s biggest carmaker is cracking down on illicit conduct as it seeks to move past a crisis that took down its CEO and other senior executives, and had cost €30bn at last count. Communicating efforts will serve to alert about 650,000 workers to the consequences, while increased transparency potentially shows VW in a better light.

VW issued 903 formal warnings to employees during the period, the internal publication said, without providing comparable year-ago figures. The documentation isn’t meant to track seasonal swings, as these can be influenced by a range of factors, according to a company spokesperson.

The report covered discipline at subsidiaries that employ about two-thirds of VW’s global staff — 51 VW units with more than 1,000 employees each.

Documenting misconduct and showing the consequences in internal filings has been one of the key demands made by US-appointed monitor Larry Thompson to boost awareness across VW’s workforce. His three-year mandate to audit the manufacturer’s compliance and integrity systems runs until June 2020. The former deputy attorney-general has to certify whether or not VW has taken adequate measures to establish a system that prevents the sort of misconduct that triggered its biggest crisis.

VW’s manipulation of diesel-engine software to cheat on emission tests went on for about a decade before it was uncovered by US authorities in September 2015. Legal proceedings are set to drag on for years.

In an interview published separately in the VW staff newspaper, Thompson said the manufacturer “has become a better company after the scandal”.

But he said there’s “still need for improvement” when it comes to getting the necessary support to fulfil his task. VW has “a long way to go” to patrol compliance across its complex operations, he said.

Bloomberg