"We have won time with this solution, no more and no less", said NRW IG metall district manager oliver burkhard. Opel is suffering from overcapacity due to the weak european car market and is making losses similar to those of peugeot or fiat. The original plan to quickly reduce capacity and close plants has been shelved for the time being following a compromise with employees.
The joint plan that adam opel AG, the works council and the union for metal, engineering and electronics (IG metall) want to negotiate provides, among other things, for no redundancies until the end of 2016. In addition, the plant in bochum, which is threatened with closure, is not to be closed as early as 2015, but at the earliest two years later, when the current zafira production comes to an end.
Management expects to be accommodating when it comes to implementing the 2012 wage agreement. The difficult question from the employee’s point of view is whether a salary waiver will be rewarded by a permanent perspective beyond 2016. "Until the outcome of the negotiations is known, the union and the group works council are prepared to suspend the 4.3 percent wage increase until the end of october 2012," said the head of the group works council, wolfgang schafer-klug, on thursday.
IG metall and the group works council are also calling for negotiations to be held on production allocation for all german plants beyond 2016 – in order to have long-term certainty about the plants’ future. Burkhard expects "reasonable prospects for all german opel locations": "employee concessions can only be negotiated if there are crystal-clear promises in return for investments, job security and location security at all plants."
In north rhine-westphalia, the offer of a grace period for the bochum plant was not universally welcomed. "They only want money. We’re being asked to bleed again," said a 54-year-old worker at the plant gate who has already experienced many rounds of savings at the site, which still employs 3,200 opel workers. Minister president hannelore kraft (SPD), on the other hand, emphasized the opportunities created by the time gained. Opel site spokesman alexander bazio also expressed his satisfaction: "now we have four and a half years to show what we can do: build cars."
Management plans to close the bochum plant in 2017. In bochum, however, there is hope that the new family van zafira tourer, which has been well reviewed in the trade press, could save the plant. Finally, opel management has assured that zafira production will remain in bochum until it is phased out, said one employee. But production only started at the end of 2011 and could possibly run longer than 2016 if the auto economy recovers.
Schafer-klug announced that all IG metall members at opel sites would vote on the outcome of the negotiations in a referendum: "if no agreement is reached, the exclusion of layoffs for operational reasons will not be extended until 2016 and the 4.3 percent wage increase will be paid out retroactively for the months of may to october."