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Employees

After 47 Years, Klaus Wenzel Is Entering Retirement 

The Head of the Representative Council for Employees with Disabilities  is now looking forward to more time for family, travel and reading.

When Klaus Wenzel was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bernd 
Osterloh, Head of the Works Council, described Wenzel as Volkswagen’s social conscience. And Chief Human Resources Officer Gunnar Kilian recently emphasized the fact that, at Volkswagen, the concept of inclusion is closely tied with Klaus Wenzel’s name. But Wenzel himself doesn’t like to talk about awards and honors. He prefers to talk about his 47 years at Volkswagen, his service as a Works Council member and especially as the ombudsperson for people with disabilities at Volkswagen.This period is now coming to a close. The passive stage of partial retirement begins in mid-October for Wenzel, 62.

Inclusion and the rights of people with disabilitieshave been Wenzel’s primary concerns since 2002. His work has included service as a Works Council member for Work-2-Work employees 
affected by disabilities and as an ombudsperson for employees with disabilities, with responsibility for the company and the Group in Germany. He advocated for the rights of over 3,000 employees in Wolfsburg, many of 
them living with significant challenges. 
“You hear about serious hardship and have to learn to deal with it. In the beginning, it weighed on me even after work day ended,” admits Wenzel. Work-2-Work, managing integration at the company, inclusion – he was responsible for advances in all those areas at Volkswagen.

But his legacy goes beyond that; through the requirements formulated at IG Metall, he also influenced the new German Federal Participation Act (Bundesteilhabegesetz). Among other things, that law provides for greater representation of people  with disabilities within companies. In Wolfsburg alone, it led to an increase in the number of employees with disabilities from 12 to 30 in October . “That will significantly improve services for our coworkers with disabilities,” says Wenzel. He’s leaving on a positive note. 
“At Volkswagen, despite some 
shortcomings, we continue to set the standard when it comes to inclusion, with beacons like Work-2-Work, the West ramp and the new demographics project in Hall 35. 
We even received the German Inclusion Award for the first two of those projects in 2013 .”

Wenzel describes the collective bargaining agreement on job security (based on a four-day week) in 1993 as the greatest success of his time as a member of the union and the Works Council. “At the time, 30,000 jobs were at stake,” he recalls. As a member of the collective bargaining committee, he cast his vote about the compromise that had been negotiated: shorter working hours (28.8 hours) and lower compensation. “However, we preserved our co-workers’ monthly wages; it was only the total annual pay that was lower. But the jobs were saved. At Volkswagen, we don’t just talk about solidarity – we really practice it,” says Wenzel.

His parents influenced him to get involved in social issues from an early age. Wenzel became an ombudsperson at the age of just 16. He had started working at Volkswagen as a 15-year-old. He trained as a machinist and still remembers the first time he stood at a bench vise, a slender young man wielding a giant file. In some towns back then in the early 1970s, blue factory buses still picked up employees. “You couldn’t just sit down. There were assigned seats and you had to ask an older, more experienced co-worker which ones were available.”

“At the time, 30,000 jobs were at stake”

And what does Wenzel have planned for his retirement? He definitely won’t get bored. He volunteers as mayor in Grafhorst (in the Helmstedt district) and as a member of the local and district councils. He also wants to read more Scandinavian mysteries, travel to the North and Baltic Seas with his wife, and play with his two-year-old granddaughter.