Nokia under fire in German parliament over plant closure

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Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia comes under fire in the German parliament over its decision to close a manufacturing plant in Germany with the loss of 2,300 jobs.


17th January 2008

Berlin (dpa) - Nokia's behaviour was "a disgrace," said Hermann Otto Solms, a member of the opposition Free Democrats and vice president of the lower house, or Bundestag.

Solms said the decision to close the plant at Bochum in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia showed that the policy of granting state subsidies to companies was wrong.

"The whole 'subsidyitis' has led to nothing," said Solms during a debate on executive pay.

Hans Michelbach, a deputy from the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, accused the Finnish company of fraudulently taking advantage of German subsidies.

On Tuesday, Nokia announced its decision to close the Bochum plant, which opened in 1987, saying it would transfer production to Romania, Hungary and Finland on cost grounds.

North Rhine-Westphalia state Premier Juergen Ruettgers expressed outrage, pointing to the subsidies paid over the 20 years the plant had been in operation and saying the company's reasons were "nothing but nonsense."

Nokia had received 60 million euros (88.5 million dollars) from the state up to 1999 and a further 28 million from the federal German government, Ruettgers said, insisting that the plant was in fact profitable.

Economics Minister Christa Thoben told the state legislature in Dusseldorf she intended to investigate whether 17 million euros in subsidies could be recovered.

Apart from the 2,300 employed by the plant itself, almost all of whom face losing their jobs, supplier companies employing around 1,000 temporary workers are also affected.

A Nokia spokesman said Thursday that the company would not enter into discussions with German authorities about keeping the plant in operation.

The decision to cease production in Bochum had been taken after "very careful consideration," company spokesman Arja Suominen told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Nokia has said it plans to shift some of Bochum's production to Cluj in Romania in the first quarter of the year, with Komarom in Hungary taking up most of the rest.

Products requiring highly trained workers are to be moved to Nokia's plant in Salo, Finland.

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