AUDI AG received the ‘JobErfolg 2007

21.12.2007: AUDI AG received the ‘JobErfolg 2007

- Menschen mit Behinderung am Arbeitsplatz’ (‘Job Success 2007- Disabled People at the Workplace’) integration prize at the beginning of December.

Dr. Werner Widuckel, Member of the Board of the Management at Audi for Human Resources, accepted the prize from a representative of the Bavarian government in the category "private commercial sector’. It rewards outstanding commitment to disabled people and their integration into working life. People like Waldemar Bergstreiser, Thomas Leibhard or Karl-Heinz Arm:

"I’m so grateful and happy that I can feel what life means again and be a player rather than just a spectator – that I can be active once again and make things happen." Words spoken by Waldemar Bergstreiser, who celebrated his 50th birthday this year.

At first glance there seems to be nothing that sets him apart from his colleagues in Audi’s CKD* Packaging Quality Assurance team. He is of medium height, with brown hair that’s starting to go grey, and is wearing a working coat. Yet there is a difference: he creates an aura of boundless energy and enjoyment of life. His eyes shine and his face lights up as he tells his story:

"It’s so satisfying to be in a position to earn my living instead of being outside the job market and having to live on charity. It took me a long time to recover from my illness, but being able to contribute useful work and know that my efforts were appreciated was the best medicine I could possibly have had." Bergstreiser rates as 100 percent disabled, although this is not evident when one meets him.

 

What happened to him?

Audi integrates disabled people

- Audi has 2,033 disabled employees

- „Work saved my life"

- Learning throughout one’s working life

 

Audi receives ‚JobErfolg 2007’ integration prize

November 1992. Bergstreiser worked for Audi in the A4 assembly area, where his task was to install luggage boot linings. One morning he felt pain in the upper abdominal region and went to see the doctor. The late shift that day proved to be the last time he was able to work for seven years. The diagnosis was leukaemia, and he was only expected to live for another four years unless a suitable bone marrow donor could be found.

At that time Bergstreiser, father of two children, was 35 years old. He embarked on a series of chemotherapy treatments, but after four years, when a woman donor with compatible bone marrow was located, the doctors saw no hope of success, as he was already too weak to be operated on. At this point in his story his lips tremble and there are tears in his eyes as he says:

"This was the moment when I realised how important it is not to give up. Even if you can only see a blank wall in front of you, you must climb it in order to look over the top and find out what new opportunities and perspectives there are on the other side." His wife drove him to Munich, where he agreed to test a new therapy, which had the desired effect. After three months in intensive care, he was fit enough for the transplant to be carried out.

This was on 19th June 1997, "a date I shall never forget". Seven months elapsed before he was able to leave the intensive-care unit for the first time, breathe fresh air and let the daylight back into his life. He had to learn to walk all over again, and indeed rediscover many things. Two more years were to pass before he was considered strong enough to return to work.

Bergstreiser’s working life on the Audi production line had been interrupted for seven years. His physical condition clearly made it impracticable for him to work against the clock. Representatives from Human Resources, the Works Council, the company’s medical and social services and the disabled employees’ spokespersons were all involved in the task of finding Bergstreiser an alternative job that suited his qualifications and capabilities but made due allowance for the physical limitations resulting from his illness. "When Audi offered me a job again, it gave me a lifeline.

The company’s social worker kept in close touch with me and my family the whole time." Recalling this, Bergstreiser’s face lights up and he laughs out of pure pleasure. In November 1999 he started work again, packing small components for shipment to the Audi factory in Changchun, China, where 77,000 Audi A6 cars are assembled every year. "Work made me fit again!

At long last I felt like a normal person. People respected me and I began to think that life still had a few new tasks in store for me." At 46 years of age, Bergstreiser began attending master craftsman courses on a part-time basis. Every Friday evening and Saturday he was to be found in the classroom. "I was definitely the oldest student!" he recalls with a smile on his face. At 48, he was the proud recipient of the master craftsman’s diploma.

"I was so happy to have achieved something again in life. I had almost forgotten what learning means. I’m sure I had to work harder at it than the young people, but my family always supported me." Bergstreiser’s smile confirms his inner satisfaction. "Audi rewarded my efforts by giving me a more responsible job but also by restoring my dignity as a human being. I’m so grateful to have a chance to work again."

Bergstreiser’s eyes cloud over for a moment as he thinks back to the long illness he had to endure. "You’re never quite the same person again. You can’t fight it: you’re entirely dependent on other people helping you. I therefore enjoy every day that gives me a chance to do something useful. And for me, Audi is the best employer anyone could wish for." The company has helped him ever since 1989, when he and his family came to Germany from Kazakhstan.

"Initially we planned to stay with relatives in Augsburg, but Audi gave me a job and a flat to live in – an opportunity I simply couldn’t miss." As he speaks, Bergstreiser walks through ‘his’ section of the factory and succeeds in communicating his joy of living to a remarkable extent; he is convinced that life still has a lot in store for him. His department packs 2,300 items every week for a safe journey to far-off countries. India is the latest destination, since Audi began to assemble the A6 there this autumn.

A forklift truck is now rapidly approaching him. Behind the wheel is Thomas Leibhard (22), who – if his broad smile is anything to go by – very much enjoys driving this vehicle. He was born with a heart defect and a deformity of the skull. His dream of becoming a motor mechanic was ruled out when the doctors forbade him to lift heavy weights. Audi offered him a three-year training course in storage logistics.

Bringing his vehicle to a standstill, he greets us and fills in more of his working background. "During training I was integrated into a normal group of students. The practical phases took us to all parts of the factory: we spent every eight weeks in a different department. I found it all extremely interesting."

Karl-Heinz Arm works at the other end of Audi’s Ingolstadt factory. He is 39 years old, and reconditions starter motors and alternators. He finds talking difficult, but manages to say: "I’m so glad they found me this job. I was off work for seven months and I couldn’t go back to the A4 assembly line where I used to be. I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the work-cycle times."

Arm developed cancer of the larynx, which had to be removed. He is now rated as 100% disabled. He is sharing a joke with his colleague Adrian Schneider (37), who performs similar work at a neighbouring station and has no problems at all in working with a disabled colleague in the team. On the contrary: "In our day-today work, I don’t even notice his disability at all."

 

AUDI AG

�� Approximately 45,000 people are employed at its production sites in Germany

�� Disabled persons: 2,033 (as at 30th October 2007)

�� Proportion of total workforce: 5.3 percent

�� Value of orders placed with workshops for disabled people: app. 3,700,000 euros (2006)

On 3rd December 2007, which is the International Day of Disabled Persons, the Bavarian government is awarding its ‘JobErfolg 2007 – Menschen mit Behinderung am Arbeitsplatz’ (Job Success 2007 – Disabled People at the Workplace’) prize

�� To companies that have dedicated themselves in an exemplary manner to the needs of disabled persons and their integration into working life

�� Audi has been awarded the private commercial sector prize Communication Corporate

 

- Antje Bauer-

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/audi-ag-joberfolg-2007-behinderung-arbeitsplatz-job-success-disabled-people-workplace---31255.html

21.12.2007 / MaP

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