VW Workers Wary of Burnout Win Break From BlackBerry Messages

VW Workers Win Break From BlackBerry Messages
Volkswagen AG C.E.O. Martin Winterkorn makes a phone call at the VW stand in Hanover, Germany. Photographer: David Hecker/AFP/Getty Images

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen AG’s BlackBerry-wielding employees now get a break at the end of the work day from the constant allure of the Research In Motion Ltd. device’s blinking red light.

Yielding to demands from its works council, Europe’s largest carmaker agreed to stop its e-mail server from routing messaging traffic to the smartphone 30 minutes after a shift and resume half an hour before the next day begins. The accord affects about 1,150 employees in Germany who use the device and are covered by collective labor agreements, the Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung reported.

Markus Schlesag, a spokesman for VW in Wolfsburg, Germany, confirmed the accord and said the carmaker needs to balance the benefit of being able to reach its staff at all times with the protection of employees’ private life.

VW, with about 191,600 workers in Germany as of Sept. 30, in one of the country’s biggest employers. German media including Der Spiegel magazine have run cover stories on burnout in recent months following the Sept. 22 resignation of Bundesliga soccer coach Ralf Rangnick over exhaustion from work.

Gunnar Kilian, a spokesman for Volkswagen’s works council, didn’t immediately reply to a voicemail message left on his mobile phone. VW employees can continue to use their BlackBerrys for phone calls when the message traffic is halted, Schlesag said.

RIM’s BlackBerry has become a symbol of around-the-clock availability, having evolved from being a gadget for roving executives to a tool many lower-level employees consider vital to their work.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cornelius Rahn in Frankfurt at crahn2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net