Why Volkswagen fired 204 staff in the wake of the emissions scandal

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FRANKFURT — Volkswagen Group fired 204 staff for breaching company rules in the first quarter, as the automaker stiffens its response to internal misconduct in the aftermath of the diesel-cheating scandal that erupted in 2015.

About half the terminations involved work-time violations such as unexcused absence, according to an article published in the July edition of a VW staff newspaper seen by Bloomberg. Other reasons include property offenses, ignoring drug and alcohol bans, and discrimination.

VW is cracking down on illicit conduct as it seeks to move past a crisis that took down its former CEO Martin Winterkorn and other senior executives, and had cost 30 billion euros ($33 billion) at last count.

Communicating the company’s efforts will serve to alert about 650,000 workers to the consequences, while increased transparency potentially shows VW in a better light.

VW issued 903 formal warnings to employees during the period, the internal publication said, without providing comparable year-ago figures. The documentation is not meant to track seasonal swings, as these can be influenced by a range of factors, according to a company spokesman.

The report covered discipline at subsidiaries that employ about two-thirds of VW’s global staff — 51 VW units with more than 1,000 employees each.

Documenting misconduct and showing the consequences in internal filings has been one of the key demands made by U.S.-appointed monitor Larry Thompson to boost awareness across VW’s workforce.

Thompson’s three-year mandate to audit VW’s compliance and integrity systems runs until next June. The former U.S. deputy attorney general has to certify whether or not VW has taken adequate measures to establish a system that prevents the sort of misconduct that triggered its biggest crisis.

VW’s manipulation of diesel-engine software to cheat on emission tests went on for about a decade before it was uncovered by U.S. authorities in September 2015. Legal proceedings are set to drag on for years.

In an interview published separately in the VW staff newspaper, Thompson said the automaker has become “a better company after the scandal.”

But he said there is “still need for improvement” when it comes to getting the necessary support to fulfill his task. VW has “a long way to go” to patrol compliance across its complex operations, Thompson said.

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