I shall not be moved: Opel union chief Einenkel
Messy, messy, messy: Can’t even close a proper deal with the unions. GM and the unions have an agreement. It is basically as reported this morning. The deal has the signatures of management and unions. One signature is missing, reports Die Welt: That of Bochum works council chief Rainer Einenkel.
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.
By Thursday, GM wants to have a definite deal with the Opel unions at least that’s the deadline Steve Girsky has set. The parties are further apart than Dems and Reps over the sequester. Steve Girsky wanted the unions to agree that Opel’s toolmaking, prototype building and central production planning will be outsourced, or moved to GM’s plant in Gliwice, Poland , Der Spiegel says. The unions are rightly horrified.
Uh-oh: The price of doing car business in Germany is heading up, increasing pressure especially on Opel. “Germany’s IG Metall union may push a pay claim between 5 and 6.5 percent for about 100,000 workers at VW’s six western German factories” Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council told Reuters today. What does this have to do with Opel, you say?
Germany’s metal worker union IG Metall proposed a new plan yesterday to solve the overcapacity at Opel without undue grief on its members: The union will agree to the closure of Opel’s Bochum plant, if Opel guarantees that no hobs will be lost until 2018. Reuters takes that as a tacit warming up to the inevitable, while demanding the seemingly impossible.
GM's Interim-Opel-Opera: Fringe Theater In Rsselheim - FREE: Bonus Short Course In German Management Speak
Yesterday evening, while yours truly was in seedy Tokyo bars, rubbing shoulders and more with paid informants, word reached us that Opel’s new sales chief Alfred Rieck allegedly threw-in the towel and left Opel in disgust, after only seven months of valiantly trying to move the damaged goods called Opel cars. After a few phone calls to Germany this morning, a different story emerged. Siehe unten.
Go get them, tiger!
So far, Steve Girsky, dispatched on a mission impossible to Deutschland to clean up Opel, has been dancing like a butterfly, no stinging involved. Apart from targeted leaks, and an announcement to stop making cars in Opel’s Bochum plant after 2016, which really did not surprise anyone, there were no big dispatches about the heroics of Steve the hatchet man, who was sent to the Old Country to stick it to the socialist metalworker Nazis. Today, and most likely after increasingly impatient prodding from Detroit, Steve took his gloves off, and a swing at some 20,000 unionized workers in Germany.
We have documented how GM and Opel have a hard time separating themselves from the Bochum plant, something that is urgently necessary to address Opel’s dangerous overcapacity. The date to close the plant is being kicked more and more down the road and well past the use-by date of the current and some future Opel CEOs. Currently, it looks like Bochum and gaping wounds will stay open through 2017. Or maybe longer …
With their Washington overlords breathing down their necks, GM executives are pushing Opel for a definitive agreement to close Opel’s Bochum plant. According to the Wall Street Journal, GM “would like to be able to announce the plan before or along with its third-quarter earnings, which are expected to be disclosed Oct. 31.”
Rubbing shoulders with industry types displaced to a Chinese city called Chengdu has its good parts. You hear stories you normally don’t see in a press release. An executive who works for the western partner of a large Chinese joint venture told me today that my story about Chinese interests killing the Opel deal between GM and PSA wasn’t true. At least not completely. As so often, in the denial was a much more interesting story. After another drink for encouragement, said executive told me very much off the record that GM is tired of the PSA deal and wants out. If that means leaving Opel for dead, so be it.
The summary execution of Opel chief Karl-Friedrich Stracke, and the mess this has created, is front page material in the German press today. The fingers point in the direction of Detroit. Detroit has no clear strategy and changes directions like soiled underwear. The fingers also point at an impulsive Dan Akerson who is out of his depth.
According to Germany’s Handelsblatt, the firing of Opel chief Karl-Friedrich Stracke went down like this:
Opel’s stand-in boss Stephen Girsky demands changes from his workforce. “Our successful revitalization demands from all of us that we accept to do business differently than before, and that we do it quickly,” Girsky wrote in an email to staff, cited by Germany’s BILD Zeitung. How different, remains unsaid. Workers and unions expect a fight and gear up for one. Opel is running out of money. Bankruptcy rears its head.
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