DaimlerChrysler workers tostep up industrial action
15 July 2004 , STUTTGART - Thousands of DaimlerChrysler car workers vowed Friday to walk off the assembly lines on Saturday in their ongoing protests against management's cost-cutting measures. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder meanwhile called on both sides to show restraint and flexibility. Some 12,000 workers were expected to fail to report for work Saturday, stopping production of 1,000 cars, a union official said. On Thursday 60,000 workers at DaimlerChrysler plants around Germany staged demonstrati
15 July 2004
STUTTGART - Thousands of DaimlerChrysler car workers vowed Friday to walk off the assembly lines on Saturday in their ongoing protests against management's cost-cutting measures.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder meanwhile called on both sides to show restraint and flexibility.
Some 12,000 workers were expected to fail to report for work Saturday, stopping production of 1,000 cars, a union official said.
On Thursday 60,000 workers at DaimlerChrysler plants around Germany staged demonstrations and work stoppages to voice their anger over company demands for pay and benefit rollbacks at a key plant in order to cut costs.
Production was stopped for two hours during the morning shift at plants around the country in the biggest labour protests in several years at the German-American automotive group.
The walkouts stopped the assembly of more than 800 cars.
Schroeder called for an easing of tensions on both sides of the dispute. In a television interview, Schroeder urged "a willingness for flexibility rather than concentration on rigid working-hour rules".
"I regret the passing of the traditional German labour-management ethic whereby both sides would sit down together and say, 'Is there a problem, then let's resolve it together'," he told N24 television.
"What we need to resolve these problems today is the ability to be flexible enough to look for resolutions to problems in the factories themselves," he said.
Schroeder's deputy spokesman, Hans Langguth, said a deal cut by Siemens with its employees at mobile phone factories last month could serve as a model for DaimlerChrysler.
According to the Siemens accord, workers agreed to work 40 hours a week instead of the previous 35 hours with no increase in pay to prevent the company from moving 2,000 jobs to lower-wage Hungary.
Langguth said the government was confident a compromise would be reached in the DaimlerChrysler dispute.
"Despite all the sometimes rather ideological background noise, there will be an agreement", he said.
DaimlerChrysler workers' anger is directed both at rollback demands being made by the company in order to achieve annual cost savings of EUR 500 million as well as at a top executive's open threat to slash jobs and move production elsewhere in Germany and even abroad.
Erich Klemm, chairman of the company's workers council, warned that the employee unrest would continue until assurances were given on the security of 6,000 jobs at the Sindelfingen plant which were specifically cited in remarks by personnel executive Juergen Hubbert.
Hubbert said that if the company cannot achieve the EUR 500 million in lower costs by 2007, then 6,000 jobs at Sindelfingen could be cut, with production of the "C-Class" Mercedes moved to cheaper sites in Bremen in northern Germany, as well as South Africa.
The production stoppages are the latest escalation in the dispute over rollbacks at DaimlerChrysler, with the company targeting holiday and Christmas bonuses and other pay benefits.
While a basic wage accord covers all employees in the company, there are regional differences in some extra benefits. Hubbert noted that production is cheaper in Bremen than in Sindelfingen, where workers get an extra 15 percent pay bonus for "late shift" hours after 12 noon, plus an extra work break of five minutes per hour.
Employee representatives charge that the company's thrust at Sindelfingen pay conditions is just the start of a management attack aimed at undermining the overall framework wage accord.
Subject: German news