Jointly, responsibly and quickly
Effective measures were taken during the pandemic thanks to close cooperation between Human Resources and the KOVO Trade Union
ow did Bohdan Wojnar, Board Member for HR Management, Jaroslav Povšík, Chairman of the KOVO Trade Union, and Pavel Hlaváč, Head of HR Planning, coordinate their development?
How intensive were the negotiations with the KOVO Trade Union during the shutdown?
Wojnar: They definitely deserve to be thanked because the situation required bold and swift decisions. We all had to react flexibly and pragmatically. The cooperation with Chairman Povšík was constructive, and I felt a great deal of cohesion and solidarity all along. I would like such an atmosphere to continue in the future as well.
What did you unequivocally agree on, and where did you look for compromises?
Povšík: Not a day went by when we weren’t surprised by a new situation. We were afraid that people could leave on their own. Together we decided to follow two lines of solutions. First, we would take care of maintaining the health of every employee and every service worker. And second, we would focus on how to restart production as quickly as possible. Both lines are related. There is no livelihood without a factory and on the other hand without healthy employees a company cannot produce. There was not a single phone call that we would not answer, a single problem that we would not solve. We responded to employees’ concerns, we set up a discussion forum because of it. The goal was not to lose any of our employees. Other companies haven’t acted this way, they were considering who to fire. We expected the outage to last 14 days, but there were a number of extensions. We agreed to demand only 70 percent and then 75 percent wages for our employees during the shutdown. This provided them a reasonable income and the company was able to afford it. However, the main goal of all of remains customers and cars being sold.
We would like to thank everyone at ŠKODA AUTO who stood in the front line.
Which measures were the most difficult for you to prepare?
Hlaváč: Although none of us had ever encountered a similar situation before, we made the right decisions from the start. Within an hour, we identified with Chairman Povšík the key jobs we could not do without and kept these employees working at the factory. It obviously concerned external workers as well. We have instructed employees to wear basic protective equipment, to behave appropriately in the situation. There have been a number of complicated negotiations, but our joint decisions and rules have produced immediate results. All managers held the same line.
Why are the current measures stricter than those required by the Czech government?
Wojnar: It’s easy to be wise after the event. Together, we took on a great deal of responsibility and had a number of concerns – what will become of the company, the employees, health protection etc. No one knew how the coronavirus infection would spread. Nevertheless, our decisions proved to be the right ones. We also needed to buy time because human health and economic interests can’t be pitted against each other. Not only were we in contact with epidemiologists, but they were also interested in how we approached the pandemic. We became an example for many other companies and the public. Responsibility, determination and a unified approach have paid off for us. However, I appeal to everyone to remain cautious.
Povšík: ŠKODA is the world within a world. I feel most safe in the company. We keep an order on the workplace and we can adopt new habits. I'm happy when I see how people handle it. To understand the measures, I tell them that others also don't have to wear work shoes outside but they do at their workplace. It works the same with anti-covid measures. Gradually, however, we are loosening the measures, trying to make things easier for people.
The summer holidays will soon begin, and our employees will be leaving “a world within a world”. What should they be careful of?
Hlaváč: We asked them to think about themselves and their surroundings, so I hope they’ll keep that in mind. What I’m a little nervous about is various media suggesting that everything is OK already. I hope that the situation will not worsen when people in Europe begin to travel. The moment we find out that an epicentre of the disease is forming somewhere with our employees concentrated there, we would have to intervene immediately. Just like in March, when we slowed down holiday allowances. That is why we have created joint measures to support domestic tourism. (More information on this topic can be found in the online version of ŠKODA Mobil under the Holiday section.)
Povšík: It is about freedom, but also about the personal responsibility of each person and his caution. We have decided that in a pandemic we will not exacerbate the problem by selling tours with support by the social fund. We also discussed a lot how to approach the traditional children’s camps. That’s why I sat down with Štěpán Lacina to talk about the pros and cons, and he really managed to coordinate the 2020 camps. Beautiful experiences await children as in previous years. Preparations are now underway, and the parents know the conditions. I am proud that in the current situation we have decided to organize children’s camps.
What would a second wave of the disease mean for the car company, and how would we react?
Wojnar: The concept of responsibility runs through this whole interview. We advise people to be deliberate and cautios. They should consider whether to travel abroad, especially to risk areas. They need to see what this could mean. Does it mean a health risk or quarantine? Holidays in the Czech Republic are definitely a good alternative. At the same time, however, I believe that if the coronavirus reappears in the company, we are prepared to react quickly. We have the measures and all the resources we need.
Povšík: No one currently knows if there will be a second wave. The development of the vaccine is crucial. However, we must learn to live with COVID-19, as with other diseases. When a freckle appears on my hand, the doctor removes it and my hand continues to work. We do our homework. We do everything to ensure top employee health protection. I was also pleased that we helped others in this situation as well. The strength of our company and employees was shown in how we managed the whole situation.
Wojnar: I am also very happy that we helped others. The extraordinary ŠKODA AUTO employee collection for healthcare professionals is just one example. Many people helped and did their best for their communities in their free time. ŠKODA has a great chance to show that, as a brand, it can come out of the whole situation even stronger. RED
Measures against COVID-19
Up-to-date information will appear on the ŠKODA Space portal. Further details will be provided via the Vimeo Internal Communications channel, ŠKODA Weekly, leaflets and bulletin boards, as well as your supervisors and foremen.