'It's war' say DaimlerChryslerworkers in angry walkouts
15 July 2004 , STUTTGART - More than 60,000 workers at DaimlerChrysler plants around Germany staged protest demonstrations and work stoppages Thursday 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 biggest demo was at the main production site at Sindelfingen, near
15 July 2004
STUTTGART - More than 60,000 workers at DaimlerChrysler plants around Germany staged protest demonstrations and work stoppages Thursday 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 biggest demo was at the main production site at Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart, where an estimated 20,000 workers attended a rally, some carrying banners which read "It's War".
At the Untertuerkheim plant near Stuttgart, around 10,000 employees walked off their jobs, while an estimated 8,000 did so in Mannheim and 5,000 workers at both the Woerth and Bremen factories laid down their tools.
Demonstrations were also staged at DaimlerChrysler plants in Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Berlin.
The workers' anger was directed both at the 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.
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.
At the Sindelfingen rally, Klemm denounced the company's demands and said that the factories would not allow management to play off one site against the other as implied by Hubbert.
Klemm said that the employees council had already offered wage and other cost concessions which amounted to more than 200 million euros. Workers were prepared to reach a compromise aimed at securing jobs and investments through the year 2012.
"We are the company's most profitable plant and aim to stay that way," Klemm said about the Sindelfingen site.
The production stoppages on Thursday were 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.
Klemm said the envisaged EUR 500 million annual cost savings cannot be achieved without massive rollbacks in the framework agreement. "And there aren't going to be any rollbacks in the agreements," he vowed.
The dispute over rollbacks in workers' pay and benefits at DaimlerChrysler is part of the larger controversy which is now reaching into many branches of industry in Germany.
Amid a stumbling economy and the lure of cheaper production sites just beyond Germany's borders, especially in Eastern Europe, many German companies are putting pressure on employees to make wage and benefit concessions or face seeing their jobs transferred elsewhere.
The dispute is also part of the larger process of reforms under way in Germany, with the Berlin government and its conservative opposition having just wrapped up new legislation to reform labour laws making them more pro-business.
The Mercedes Car Group, with 160,000 employees, is the biggest and most profitable unit in the DaimlerChrysler concern. In 2003, it posted EUR 3.1 billion operating profit - out of a group total of EUR 5.7 billion.
Subject: German news