If you think that GM will get a handle on its abundant capacity problems in Europe – abandon all hope. Or rather: Postpone hope for until after 2016, or maybe later. Also, write off any expectations that Steve Girksy would successfully play hardball with German Metalworker Unions. Deadball is more likely. With the decision to move the production of Opel’s Astra volume model from Rüsselsheim to Ellesmere Port, and to shift production from Bochum to Rüsselsheim, the fate of the Bochum plant appeared to be sealed.
German unions declared war. Minutes ago, Opel works council chief Wolfgang Schäfer-Klug announced “an armistice” (Das Handelsblatt) and told German media that Opel will continue making cars in Bochum through 2016. Nobody can be fired, no plants can be closed at Opel until January 1, 2017. Even then, Bochum will remain open.
Currently, there is a firm contract with Opel unions that rules out plant closures and lay-offs through the end of 2014. Apparently, GM management decided to have its hands tied for at least two more years. Once car production ends, Bochum workers will find job security for another two years. Even after 2016, Bochum will not be closed, it will continue making components. Opel will have to pay salaries pretty much through the end of the decade.
According to the reports, this is an “agreement in principle.” It is unknown what the unions offered in return. Girsky had set a deadline for today and threatened, he would close Bochum by the end of 2014. He lost.
While Opel workers have gained a few years, they could do better: Volkswagen announced yesterday that each of its more than 100,000 workers in Germany will receive a bonus of nearly $10,000. While GM is scraping the bottom in Europe, VW writes a billion dollar “thank you” check to its workers.
Hours after the news made the rounds, Bochum works council Walter Einenkel said they are bogus: “There is no agreements, simply because our side did not have the opportunity to discuss this among ourselves, not to mention to clear the matter with management,” Einenkel told Die Welt. “In the meantime, we have received a so-called master agreement – I could only skim it. Neither me nor the other members of our committee are able to evaluate this in such a short time.”
Einenkel told the paper that he “had seen a lot” in his 40 years at Opel, but “this is matchless.”
Now, unions are “just about to reach an agreement,” says Reuters. IG Metall expects to strike a deal this week.