Factory workers boo Volvo Group CEO

Volvo Group CEO Leif Johansson was booed and heckled by disgruntled employees during a visit to a Volvo truck plant in Tuve near Gothenburg.

Johansson headed to the plant on Wednesday morning to meet with employees the day after they held a protest meeting and hours before the workers’ planned march to the Volvo headquarters in Torslanda.

“Save our jobs or quit,” read the workers’ demands to Volvo management, according to the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper.

In March, Volvo came under fire over plans to boost executive pay at the same time it was announcing layoffs.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called the move “insulting”, and Volvo eventually abandoned the plan.

The company has announced plans to slash a total of 16,255 permanent and temporary positions during 2008 and 2009.

Just last week, Volvo Group announced it was cutting more than 1,500 jobs in Sweden, primarily in its Volvo Trucks division.

Upon arriving at the Tove truck plan, Johansson climbed up on the roof of a truck to address the factory workers.

“The idea was probably to pour some oil on troubled waters so that fewer workers would show up at headquarters, but I think the effect was just the opposite,” said union working group chair Tomas Johansson to the TT news agency.

“It was a huge miscalculation. Now I think even more people will come to Torslanda.”

According to Tomas Johnasson, the Volvo Group CEO faced hostile questions and comments from plant employees, with several openly booing at him.

“I said he should have been here seven months ago. Now we’ve had four rounds of layoff announcements in a row. These times have been torture psychologically,” said the union representative.

Johnasson and other employees are critical of Volvo management for giving out 4 billion kronor ($497 million) to shareholders before announcing the latest round of job cuts.

Volvo spokesperson Mårten Wikforss was also on hand for Leif Johansson’s visit to the plant, and offered a slightly different version of events.

“He wanted to talk to everyone, not just those who were coming up to headquarters,” Wikforss told GP.

“Sure, there were some strong feelings and Leif Johansson understands that. But he also thought there was a good discussion and I saw it too as I was there the whole time. And at the end he stuck around and chatted and there were several who said, ‘brave that you at least came here.’”

Wikforss added however that the Volvo CEO did not plan to be on hand to receive the demands presented by the marching workers when they arrived at company headquarters.

“I’ll be the one to accept the petition,” he told the newspaper.

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