updated 6/12/2006 3:24:00 PM ET 2006-06-12T19:24:00

German carmaker Volkswagen AG would like to drop its shortened work week and return to the more standard 35 hours — without increasing wages.

But union leaders, whose approval would be needed for such a change, said they would not allow it.

Volkswagen’s head of personnel, Horst Neumann, told reporters on Monday that Volkswagen could slowly phase in the increased work week from the current one just shy of 30 hours, as part of restructuring efforts that top labor representatives have said could lead to up to 20,000 jobs being cut.

“The way to this would need to be worked through,” Neumann said, speaking from the sidelines of a discussion with Germany’s leading industrial union, IG Metall.

Asked whether the longer working hours would be able to guarantee jobs at the company’s six plants in western Germany, Neumann said: “That would be very, very difficult.”

“In the next weeks, we want to negotiate with IG Metall about competitive labor costs,” Neumann said in a statement released by Volkswagen later on Monday. “We want to take the labor costs of our traditional locations to a level that is internationally acceptable.”

IG Metall’s head of negotiations, Hartmut Meine, flatly rejected the proposal, saying that workers were already strapped with overtime hours and it was impossible to see how their time on the job could be extended.

“There will not be any wage negotiations with Volkswagen,” Meine said.

Volkswagen employees have worked a shortened four-day week since 1994, which was introduced at the time to prevent up to 30,000 people losing their jobs.

Two weeks ago, Volkswagen offered severance packages to 85,000 workers at factories in western Germany worth up to 249,480 euros ($320,800), depending on how long they have been employed and how quickly they would leave.

The company has an agreement, signed in November 2004, that prohibits compulsory layoffs at until the end of 2011.

Reports of the proposed longer workweek had been circulating for weeks, along with those that VW was seeking to close down or sell parts of its component business.

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