Unions reject Opel plant closures | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 18.05.2012
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Unions reject Opel plant closures

Germany's union of metalworkers has announced it will put up a fight against any closures of Opel plants. General Motors may be envisaging such a move as its European division keeps posting huge losses.

German manufacturing union IG Metall said on Friday it will not accept any Opel plant closures in the country. Regional union leader Armin Schild told German public broadcaster ZDF there would be "a fierce fight" with parent company GM's management, should it come to shutting down Opel facilities at the plants in Bochum or Rüsselsheim.

General Motors on Thursday decided to move production of Opel's Astra model abroad where labor costs are lower. The US carmaker aims to build the next generation of the Astra compact in Ellesmere Port in Britain where the workforce had agreed to a lower pay deal. The car will also be produced at the Gliwice site in Poland.

"Our colleagues in Britain were faced with blackmail, having been told that their plant would be closed immediately, should they not agree to lower wages," Armin Schild said on Friday. "We'll not accept the different plants to be played off against each other."

Uncertain times ahead

Restructuring plans are leaving the Opel plant in Bochum, Germany, in danger of closure as the automaker streamlines its production to counter more than a decade of losses in Europe. The German site of Rüsselsheim which has assembled the Astra brand so far may be lucky to secure the production of Opel's Zafira instead.

Trade unionists reiterated their demand that Opel should be allowed to sell cars outside of Europe and not just on a continent which continues to be in the grip of a major sovereign debt crisis.

"It's not that we're selling Opel cars where other competitors are making a huge profit," Schild said. "No, we're operating in the very difficult European market."

hg/ai (dapd, dpa, Reuters)