Future of German Opel plant uncertain after 2014

Mon May 21, 2012 12:38pm EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

BOCHUM/BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) - The head of German carmaker Opel, under pressure from parent General Motors (GM.N: Quote) to end losses, refused to promise workers at its plant in Bochum on Monday that their jobs would be safeguarded after 2014.

The plant, located in the rust-belt Ruhr region devastated by coal mine closures, is expected to shut after the company chose to build the next generation of its popular Astra compact in Britain and Poland where wages are cheaper.

Unions say around 45,000 jobs are linked to the factory but a weak economy has hit car sales in Europe, forcing manufacturers to confront high fixed costs and a capacity overhang that GM says equates to 10 plants.

Germany has had few major plant closures in the last four years and shutting Bochum could become an issue in next year's federal election.

Workers had been hoping Opel chief executive officer, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, would shed light on the company's plans, but he said a mid-term business plan for GM's European operations would not be submitted to the supervisory board until June 28.

"There is no decision for Bochum beyond 2014," Stracke said in a 20-minute speech at a closed-door meeting with staff, as workers booed him.

Many workers at the four-hour meeting wore yellow shirts emblazoned with Opel's lighting-bolt logo. Some waved banners saying: "Death in stages."

"Stracke does nothing but beat around the bush. We're fed up to the back teeth," one worker said as he stormed out of the building.   Continued...