Crown crisis: BMW works council chief Schoch gives employees great promise


BMW Works Council Chairman Manfred Schoch calls for a cultural change in the group. Going forward, managers should also be measured by the number of employees who may be working on the go.

Munich – There are probably only a few employee representatives in Germany who enjoy the same respect among colleagues and managers as BMWThe head of the works council Manfred Schoch. The industrial engineering graduate, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Thursday, worked 40 years ago as an apprentice at the BMW– Human resources started in Munich. Seven years later he became head of the works council and has since represented the interests of employees “hard on the matter, fair to the people”, such as BMW-The head of the supervisory board, Norbert Reithofer, recently praised the top employee representative and deputy director of the supervisory board of the Munich-based automaker.

Schoch’s greatest achievements include the settlement of the BMW-Work in Leipzig, where Schoch has offset the cost benefits of possible overseas locations thanks to an intelligent adjustment of working hours and the decision to build the fully electric i4 in Munich. It is expected to roll off the assembly line at the main plant starting in late 2021. * spoke with the experienced employee representative of the home office, labor, economic development and the consequences of Corona for the automotive industry.

Measuring Executives by Mobile Work Rate: BMW Works Council Head Manfred Schoch wants a cultural change in the company.

© Matthias Balk / dpa

Mr. Schoch, BMW has struggled for a long time this year due to the crown pandemic. However, in the third quarter just ended, free cash flow in the core business was just under 3.1 billion euros after 714 million euros in the same quarter of the previous year. That should be enough for the black numbers of the year, right?

In any case, based on the current state of affairs, we will certainly record positive results for 2020 as a whole, despite the crown crisis and the decline in sales. This is very rewarding. If we manage the crown crisis in this way despite the interruption of production and the short work of over two months in our factories, it will be a great achievement for the whole team.

Under the company agreement, layoffs for operational reasons are excluded if the numbers are black. So can BMW employees now confidently look forward to the end of the year?

Absolutely. There will certainly be no layoffs in 2020. And the corresponding employment contract will also apply to 2021.

In all likelihood Corona will be with us for a while longer. How safe are jobs for 2021?

Unless something serious like a block comes up, we will certainly be well above the 2020 results across the whole group in 2021. As a result, I don’t even grow a gray hair.

Given the unexpectedly strong rise in free cash flows, could it be concluded that CFO Nicolas Peter did a good job in the crown pandemic?



This is not a performance of the board of directors. Like other car manufacturers, we too benefit from significantly changed mobility behavior. People fly much less and take fewer trains, subways or buses. The car is rapidly gaining in importance for this. Many people now see their car as a personal refuge. And people don’t want to share anymore because you don’t know who was in the car before. Corona, not the board of directors, led this trend towards car ownership.

The situation at BMW was still quite tense in the summer. Therefore, as part of a package of measures, the group had announced a total of 6,000 job cuts, albeit without redundancies for operational reasons. Will it stay that way?

BMW offers employee termination agreements on a voluntary basis. Of the approximately 80,000 colleagues in Germany, more than 1,000 have accepted this offer so far. We support this by the works council in an advisory program, as well as pension and tax advisors so that everyone knows what the net result of the severance payment will be. Everything is going very well. There have been no complaints so far that I am aware of with IG Metall’s legal advice center. We are very satisfied with it.

One of the countless consequences of the crown pandemic is the relocation of many jobs in the home office. At Siemens, approximately 140,000 employees will in future be entitled to two or three home office days per week if their supervisor agrees. When will similar regulations for BMW employees come?

In 2013 we signed a company agreement on mobile work. If someone takes care of the demented mother in the nursing home during the day and during that time, for example because the mother is sleeping, they work on her emails BMW Working hours. If anyone works on the train, it’s with BMW Working hours. The theme of mobile work in BMW it is therefore a step forward compared to the home office. But it is also clear that we are not a construction company or an insurance company, but an industrial company. Take our FIZ development center, for example: there we have an acoustic center or the wind tunnel. Here we measure the quietness of a car or optimize the air resistance. None of this works at home. Production employees at the plant must also be present on site. The situation is different for software engineers or colleagues from invoice verification. A general rule does not make sense. But where possible, I think a reasonable mix, for example three days at the office, two days at home, is very desirable.

Acoustic test stand in the BMW Research and Innovation Center (FIZ) in Munich. In the lab, engineers optimize noise generation.

© Matthias Balk / dpa

And will this existing corporate agreement on mobile work at BMW then become the basis for a new corporate agreement?

We are not aiming for a new corporate deal here. What we need at BMW is a corresponding cultural shift and it has to happen in the head and not on paper. This is a question of leadership behavior and fair criteria. So far there has been a clear consensus on the issue of sick leave: high sick leave is a sign of poor leadership. We need to get to the point where a low mobile work rate is a sign that the manager has not yet understood the possibilities of digitization. Good managers have a high mobile work rate, bad managers a low one. How fast do you think it will change then? So we don’t need rules that the works council negotiates for this cultural change.

How do you want to contribute to this change?

I do a ten minute video podcast a month because we are unable to hold large corporate meetings at the moment due to Corona. In these podcasts I mention clearly and precisely the theme of leadership culture and mobile work and will repeat it and tell it at the next business meeting.

And does this help?

Believe me. When we say: measure your managers by how they approach this topic, it has an internal effect.

But more home office implies many other things. This also applies to staff equipment. How do you feel considering not only the notebook but also questions such as the possible purchase of a desk and an office chair?

It is more important to us that this year we have really equipped all our trainees with a notebook. We will not now ask the company to buy chairs or desks. The BMW works council is satisfied when all employees are provided with the technical equipment that they are usually allowed to use privately.

BMW i4: Manfred Schoch, director of BMW operations, had vehemently promoted the production of the Stromer at the main plant in Munich.

© Andreas Landwehr / dpa

The home office has many other effects, for example companies need much less office space.

If employees work full-time two days out of five a week, we have a significant impact on local transport, 40% less CO2 emissions from commuting and, of course, an impact on company office spaces and occupation of parking spaces.

Meanwhile, the home office theme has moved on to Berlin. Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil wants to consolidate the right to work from home. Based on this, full-time employees should be able to work from home 24 days a year. What do you think about it?

There are many businesses where there is little or no home office. Two days a month would certainly help. At BMW, we want to work on the go two days a week and are simply beyond Heil’s suggestion.

He has been chairman of the BMW general works council since 1987, making him the longest serving head of the German automotive industry. In other societies in the past there were often harsh discussions and even scandals. In BMW he was always very calm, at least externally. How did you do?

I try to resolve issues with responsible department heads and board members and not through the public. This is the most effective way. And this is also the case with collective bargaining, by the way, when you have been sitting together for the last few nights and looking for solutions at the small round table.

Thanks for the interview.

* is part of the national Ippen Digital publishing network.

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