German unions ask government to stop Faurecia closure
FRANKFURT, Dec 11 (Reuters) - German union IG Metall is calling on politicians to save 200 blue collar jobs at Faurecia's car seat plant, the first major closure by an auto part supplier in Germany this year. "We've had good experience with that if you look at the example of Alstom in Salzgitter. By leaning on the company, politicians were able to prevent the planned job cuts," said a spokesman for IG Metall in the state Lower Saxony. In a rare move, all major political parties in the state joined up last year to fight for 1,400 workers whose jobs were reportedly at risk in Alstom's loss-making train manufacturing plant in Salzgitter. The French transport and engineering group restored competitiveness after cutting only 370 jobs, and its Transport division in Germany in the first fiscal half has now nearly matched its record annual order intake from all of last year. Faurecia is hoping to turn around its German operations as well, slimming its cost base by moving production to lower-wage Poland. In a press release limited to a select group of German language news media, it said on Monday it plans to shift the manufacturing of car seat components next year from its northern German plant in Stadthagen, saying it needs to secure competitiveness amid the ongoing crisis in European auto market. A spokeswoman for Faurecia said it employs around 11,000 workers across 30 production plants and 10 research & development centres in Germany, where it generates about 40 percent of its global revenue thanks to major customers like Volkswagen. She said IG Metall's claims that the site of Stadthagen would be weakened is "simply wrong" since some 900 jobs would remain, including 750 in R&D alone. Car parts suppliers employ some 293,600 people in Germany, about 40 percent of domestic auto industry jobs in total. So far they have made use of other flexible instruments such as work time accounts or the state-sponsored scheme known as "Kurzarbeit". Since suppliers generally have a higher number of plants that each employ a low number of people, factory closures generally receive far less media attention in Europe, making them a less visible target for political pressures than their car-making customers. On Monday, General Motors' loss-making Opel unit told German workers days before Christmas that the last car would run off the assembly line in 2016 at its plant in Bochum, where about 3,000 workers manufacture the Zafira Tourer.