A Car Scandal Shoves Berlin Off High Ground/福斯醜聞 重創德國老大哥

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2015/10/23 第89期 訂閱/退訂看歷史報份

紐時周報精選 A Car Scandal Shoves Berlin Off High Ground/福斯醜聞 重創德國老大哥
Attitudes Shift on Paid Leave: Dads Sue, Too/老爸打官司 爭取帶薪育嬰假


A Car Scandal Shoves Berlin Off High Ground/福斯醜聞 重創德國老大哥

As Germany has emerged as the dominant actor in Europe, it has lectured Greece and other debtor nations on the virtues of thrift and lately wagged its finger at countries that balk at receiving a share of refugees from the killing fields of Syria. Its right to lead, based on a narrative of self-sacrifice and obedience to rules, was generally acknowledged.

That is one reason the Volkswagen scandal has shaken the country’s very core. More than just a tale of corporate misdeeds, the disclosure of systematic cheating by one of Germany’s most iconic companies has delivered a sharp blow to its conception of itself as an orderly nation and tarnished its claim to moral leadership of the Continent.



It was perhaps inevitable that Volkswagen’s chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, would quickly step aside on Wednesday after disclosures that the company deceived regulators over emissions from its diesel cars. But the effects on Germany are likely to play out for some time, even as it copes with a huge influx of migrants attracted by its reputation as Europ’s beacon of opportunity and as it continues to find its footing as an often-ambivalent global power.

Further, the timing puts Germany in an awkward spot ahead of the global climate conference in Paris in December, where it had hoped to hold out its transformation as an industrial power reliant on a lower-carbon energy system as a model to the world.

福斯汽車在柴油車廢氣排放檢驗上欺騙主管單位被揭露後,執行長馬丁.文德恩周三(九月廿三日) 迅速請辭,或許是不可避免的。但此事對德國的影響可能還會持續相當時日,而此際德國正在處理受其歐洲機會燈塔美譽吸引而大量湧入的難民,並持續探求作為一個經常舉棋不定的全球強權的立足點。


In the immediate aftermath, Germany’s leaders scrambled to distance themselves from the scandal and to mitigate the damage to the auto industry, which accounts for one in seven German jobs.

“The damage that a few people have caused for the firm and its workers is huge,” said Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister,as he toured the annual auto show in Frankfurt on Wednesday. But, “we must take care that doesn’t unleash a whole debate about the auto industry in Germany or the German economy,” he continued.



In fact, it may be too late for that. Germany is very closely aligned with its auto industry. Indeed, the state of Lower Saxony, where Volkswagen is headquartered in Wolfsburg, owns about 20 percent of the company. Any governor of that state is deeply involved in the company’s affairs.

“The saying is, when Wolfsburg has a sniffle, the whole state gets sick,”said Rebecca Harms, a prominent deputy for the Greens in the European Parliament, who grew up in Lower Saxony. Now “its reputation is really damaged. This is a catastrophe, not just for Lower Saxony but for a global enterprise” with 600,000 employees, she said.



So far, there is no evidence the government knew about the deception, though it was aware there could be deviations between emissions on the road and in the laboratory. But the matter is not just about jobs, market share or corporate and bureaucratic reputations.

The scandal captures Germany at a moment when it has been trying to hold onto values it always saw as defining, but that have become increasingly difficult to maintain as it becomes drawn into the messy problems of Europe and the world.



Perhaps even more harmful in the long run, the Volkswagen scandal also comes at a time when Germany is trying to set an example for the rest of the world on lowering carbon emissions. Its ambitious policy of shifting away from carbon-based fuels to alternative energy like wind and solar has driven up costs for German business and consumers. Yet Germany has stayed its course.

As the immediate shock has subsided, Germans have sought a way to explain the Volkswagen chapter.

“The biggest problem of VW is that this giant concern has become ungovernable,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper, wrote Wednesday.“VW is led centrally from Wolfsburg. Just a few people have a say — everyone else just receives orders. Doubts or, even, resistance, are unwanted.”





Attitudes Shift on Paid Leave: Dads Sue, Too/老爸打官司 爭取帶薪育嬰假


For decades, women who believed their employers had punished them with lower wages and missed promotions after they had become mothers have been filing gender discrimination complaints and bringing lawsuits.


Now, as men shoulder more responsibilities at home, they are increasingly taking legal action against employers who they say refuse to accommodate their roles as fathers.


“The huge thing that’s changed only in about the past five years is suddenly men feel entitled to take time off for family,” said Joan C.Williams, of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. “They’re willing to put their careers on the line to live up to that idea. It’s revolutionary.”


Just last month, CNN and Turner Broadcasting quietly settled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge with a former CNN correspondent, Josh Levs, who claimed that the company’s paid parental leave policy discriminated against biological fathers.


At the time Levs’ daughter was born, in October of 2013, CNN offered 10 weeks of paid leave to biological mothers and the same amount to parents of either gender who adopted children or relied on surrogates. By contrast, the company offered two weeks of paid leave to biological fathers.


Levs, whose daughter was born five weeks prematurely, already had two young children. He said he felt he needed to spend more time at home sharing in caregiving responsibilities with his wife. He filed his charge when the company refused to grant him more paid time off.


Levs is prevented from disclosing what he received under the settlement, but he confirms that CNN and Turner Broadcasting will provide additional paid time off to some other biological fathers who took paternity leave before January 2015. The company’s current policy — which went into effect this year — gives six weeks of paid caregiving leave to all new parents. Biological mothers receive another six weeks of leave, and more if they have additional medical needs.


“Turner is a recognized leader because of its family-friendly policies,” the company said in a statement. “CNN is pleased Mr. Levs feels that his concerns have been addressed and has withdrawn his EEOC charge.”


Levs’ is the latest in a recent string of cases brought by fathers against their employers over conflicts relating to family responsibilities.


The law firm Dechert settled a case in 2013 that was brought by Ariel Ayanna, a former lawyer, who said he faced retaliation from supervisors, who withheld work and ultimately fired him, after he took a leave that was covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act in 2008. He said that one reason for his leave was to help care for his wife, who was suicidal while pregnant.


In his complaint, Ayanna cited a “macho” culture that “encourages male associates and partners to fulfill the stereotypical male role of ceding family responsibilities to women.”


The cases come against the backdrop of a societal shift in which many fathers are working less and spending more time with their children. A recent Pew Research Center analysis reported that between 1965 and 2011,fathers reduced the number of hours they devoted to paid work to about 37 from 42 each week on average and increased the number of hours they devoted to child care each week to about seven from 2.5.


The earlier cases that have been settled appear to have encouraged more fathers to seek legal remedies.


Rebecca G. Pontikes, who represented Ayanna,said she had received inquiries from other lawyers.


“They talk to me about bringing suits they have on behalf of male caregivers,” she said. “It has not been without effect.”


Even companies that have adopted legally defensible official policies may still face legal action. In a study reported this year in the journal Organization Science, Erin Reid, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Boston University, who gained access to workers in a large consulting firm, uncovered numerous instances in which fathers were discouraged from adjusting their schedules to accommodate parental responsibilities, coupled with a kind of disbelief that they would even entertain the idea.


“Men experienced more overt discrimination, hostility,” Reid said.


Experts say the issue goes beyond unequal treatment of men and women to a question of the trade-off between work and family. By discouraging men from taking child rearing seriously, they say, employers can effectively add to the workplace stigma of women who shoulder these responsibilities.






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