By on February 8, 2012

Even at Germany’s IG Metall metal workers union the daily BILD Zeitung was put aside today to make room for the fancy Wall Street Journal. The paper claims to have talked to “a GM official,” who thinks that all hell is about to break loose at Opel in Germany.

In a nutshell:

  • GM is looking at “horrendous” fourth quarter losses from Opel
  • Patience at RenCen is running out
  • The plants in Bochum, Germany, and Ellesmere Port, England, could get closed.

Said the nameless official:

“There is increasing frustration with Opel and a feeling that the cuts two years ago did not go nearly deep enough. If Opel is going to get fixed, it is going to get fixed now and cuts are going to be deep.”

GM spokesman Selim Bingol told the WSJ that “the official’s comments don’t represent the company’s official stance with the union.”

Germany’s Handelsblatt immediately was on the story and produced the scoop of the day: UAW’s Bob King becomes a member of the Opel Supervisory Board. Neither Handelsblatt in Germany nor the Detroit News in Detroit could get an official confirmation, but received no denial either. The DetN found “ source familiar with the situation” that said it’s true.

Now that’s a new and clever threat: Say ja to the firings, or we’ll sic the UAW on you.

Meanwhile a new enemy is targeting Opel: Hyundai. The Koreans want to gain market share in Germany mainly from Opel and from Ford, writes the Handelsblatt.

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9 Comments on “GM To Opel Unions: Surrender, Or We’ll Send The UAW...”

  • avatar

    In Germany, companies larger than a certain size or with a certain number of employees must have labor reps one their govermance board (Aufsitchtsrat.) And those reps are selected by employees, not shareholders. So I’m not sure what this move is supposed to do to IG-Metal. It neither “dilutes” their power nower adds new weight to the non-employee side of the board.

    • 0 avatar

      He will be on the employer side.

    • 0 avatar

      Why didn’t the UAW force the big-three to follow Germany’s way of doing things and have labor reps on the board and all that? They should have been able to do that years ago when the auto makers were still terrified of their power. It might have reduced the debilitating acrimony, us-versus-them, in the relationship between union and management at least.

  • avatar

    After having been burned by one of the opel products I can only say that I am not unbiased as I watch this play out.

  • avatar

    I have also enjoyed recently excellent Opel products, being a pleasure to drive them. Opel engineering is really top-notch and GM is lucky to have such a resource that enables to turn out very successful products. Having said that, it is true that Opel needs a strong restructuring, namely in Germany where the major manufacturing footprint is. I hope GM does the right thing to ensure the long term sustainability of Opel and the resources it provides.

  • avatar

    Wait a couple of months until Greece bails out and then attempt to close the plants.. I’m sure the German Gov will throw lots on money in to prevent that.

  • avatar

    “the official’s comments don’t represent the company’s official stance with the union.”

    Truth disguised as doublespeak. Fixing Opel immediately really is the objective, but the company just isn’t telling the union that.

    Bob King? He’ll quietly whisper to the Opel union how to retain just enough jobs without closing down the whole works. Maybe they’ll get a two-tier pay system. This way, the union bosses will keep their jobs while the rank-and-file become Lilliputians, who will wake up one day and realize their union’s leadership learned about cannibalism from the Americans.

    This will appear to serve the company (lower cost) and the union (keep some jobs), but will be insufficient to satisfy either party.

    • 0 avatar

      A two-tier pay system in Germany?

      This sounds like it’s going to cost GM a huge bundle of money since it’s so prohibitively expensive to fire workers from what I hear.

      I know they were worried about having a supplier gain all that technology and maybe becoming a future threat to their established presence. I still wonder if Magna could have made a turnaround in this unsustainable situation by now, and everyone would have come out the better for it.

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