US auto union chief open to joining GM Opel board

Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:40pm EST

* King says GM should keep loss-making Opel unit

* King: 'I have not been appointed to the board yet'

* UAW to support organizing, Obama re-election efforts

By Bernie Woodall

FLINT, Mich., Feb 10 (Reuters) - United Auto Workers President Bob King said on Friday he would join the board of General Motors Co's money-losing Opel unit if asked by its German union.

Sources previously told Reuters that German union IG Metall will name King to the Opel board next month. The U.S. union chief met with his Opel counterpart, Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug, in Detroit on Monday.

"I have not been appointed to the board yet," King told reporters on Friday.

GM declined to comment on the prospect of King joining the Opel board. GM and IG Metall in previous statements have said they are working together to return Opel to profitability.

IG Metall has not yet decided whom it will name to Opel's board, added King, speaking on the sidelines of an event in Flint, Michigan, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of a sit-down strike that led to recognition of the union by GM.

King later told Reuters: "I will do what IG Metall wants. They are a great union and we want to continue to work closely with them."

Opel has struggled to return to profitability, and sources previously said GM Europe will lose between $292 million and $568 million when the U.S. automaker reports fourth-quarter results on Feb. 16.

GM is working with Opel union leaders to cut costs there. Opel's current labor deal, which runs through 2014, bars job cuts or plant closures.

King is trying to win the support of IG Metall for the UAW's efforts to organize the U.S. plants of German automakers Volkswagen and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, and he would likely not endorse any quick plant closures in Europe, one of the sources previously said.

On Friday, King said he has encouraged GM and IG Metall to find common interests.

"I definitely think GM should keep Opel," he told reporters. "They're a huge asset to the company.

"I'm hopeful that by working together they come up with a solution that works for the company and workers," King added.

King described the UAW's relationship with IG Metall as very strong and said the German union has been supportive of the UAW's efforts to organize foreign-owned U.S. plants. He did not offer details of what that support entails.

"We're strongly supporting IG Metall and the works council and the workers in Europe because we believe in solidarity, just like we're asking other unions to support us in our organizing drive."

King declined to discuss the UAW's organizing efforts at foreign-owned U.S. auto plants, but said those efforts would move forward along with union support for the re-election campaign this fall of President Barack Obama.

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