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Volkswagen labor bosses step up attack on brand chief

Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess speaks near an electric I.D. Buzz concept vehicle during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE) labor leaders sent an open letter to staff accusing brand chief Herbert Diess of disregarding an agreed turnaround plan, just as the carmaker is seeking to raise its profitability through cost cuts.

Instead of seeking cost-cutting solutions with the works council, VW's brand management aims to lower headcount in ways which violate consensus-based decision making, the letter said.

"The brand chief executive is acting in a deeply antisocial manner, he constantly fails to keep his word when implementing the future pact and wipes jointly agreed arrangements off the table," VW's labor leaders wrote in the letter seen by Reuters Thursday.

"This approach poisons the Volkswagen DNA, it disregards co-determination," according to the letter. "Such an approach does not fit into our company."

Europe's largest automaker needs to trim its high cost base in Germany to fund a strategic shift as it tries to overcome its emissions scandal while grappling with billions of euros in costs. But it can only implement larger strategic steps by consulting its workforce which hold seats on the board of directors.

VW's labor leaders on Tuesday had called on Diess and personnel chief Karlheinz Blessing to explain by Monday how managers would to help resolve the dispute.

Managers and labor leaders agreed in November to cut 30,000 jobs at the VW brand in exchange for a commitment to avoid forced redundancies in Germany until 2025, a deal that leaves profitability still lagging rivals.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)