Opel workers stop production in protest

15th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

15 October 2004, BOCHUM - Angry workers at the Opel car plant in Bochum brought production to a standstill Friday in protest at plans by parent company General Motors to slash some 4,000 jobs at the plant.

15 October 2004

BOCHUM - Angry workers at the Opel car plant in Bochum brought production to a standstill Friday in protest at plans by parent company General Motors to slash some 4,000 jobs at the plant.

Workers downed tools while around 3,500 employees took part in a protest inside the plant against the planned cuts. Works council leaders said the stoppage would continue until management dropped their plans.

"Production will only continue when we receive the signal that the reduction of 4,000 jobs is off the table - no compulsory redundancies and security for the plant to 2010 and beyond," works council chief Lothar Marquardt said.

Work meanwhile continued without disruption at Opel's Ruesselsheim plant which is also earmarked by the US auto giant for the reduction of 4,000 jobs.

Germany is to face the brunt of the cuts in GM's bid to cut costs at its loss-making car factories in Europe.

The German government meanwhile ruled out Friday any state bailout for either Opel or the ailing retail giant KarstadtQuelle which is to shed 5,500 jobs over the next three years.

"Management decisions which were totally wrong ... cannot be compensated with state funds," said Thomas Steg, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's deputy spokesman.

Steg added that even if Berlin wanted to inject cash into the struggling companies it would be impossible to do so given budget deficits and European Union laws against subsidies.

Of the 12,000 job cuts foreseen at GM's plants in Germany (Opel), Britain (Vauxhall) and Sweden (Saab), some 10,000 were planned for Opel, with a current work force of some 33,000.

The protests at Bochum - where 4,000 of a total of 9,600 jobs could go - began almost immediately after Thursday's announcement by General Motors.

After night-shift workers downed tools the stoppage was continued by Friday's day shifts. Works council spokesman Klaus Neumann described the stoppage as an "information round" and not a strike.

According to the works council, the stoppage would prevent 1,200 new cars a day being built at the plant.

Germany's ZDF television said a supervisory board meeting at Ruesselsheim was told that half of the planned 4,000 jobs to go at the Ruesselsheim works would be in development, 1,200 in production and 800 in administration.

The joint works council for the two plants said it would only be willing to discuss on overall package to reduce costs at the two plants and not individual factory cutbacks. It would also be rejecting any compulsory redundancies or plant closures.

Joint works council chief Klaus Franz said employees were, however, prepared to make concessions. "We won't get out of this situation without cuts in personnel," he said.

Works council representatives from General Motors' 11 European works are now planning to meet.

The German government would also be seeking talks with General Motors to discuss the company's plans. "You can assume there will be talks with GM on this," said Steg.

The spokesman insisted there was nothing wrong with Germany as a place to do business.

Germany has some of the highest wages in the world and business leaders complain of high taxes, red tape and lack of flexibility. But Steg added that GM headquarters in Detroit apparently did not sufficiently understand the role of corporations in Germany and the country's social-market economy.

"There are apparently cultural differences," said Steg, who did not elaborate.

A German automobile industry marketing analyst meanwhile warned Opel workers at Bochum against prolonging their stoppages. Gelsenkirchen-based Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer said two or three weeks of protests "would sound the death knell for Opel in Bochum".


Subject: German news

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