GM's Opel union seeks job guarantees for Bochum closure

FRANKFURT Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:00pm EST

FRANKFURT Jan 29 (Reuters) - German trade union IG Metall wants General Motors to guarantee no Opel employee in the Bochum car plant will join the ranks of the unemployed once production ends, it said late on Tuesday.

Previously the union had never openly spoken of accepting a closure of the Opel plant in the Ruhr industrial heartland.

"In order to ensure that workers do not solely bear the risks of restructuring the Bochum site, we must guarantee that no one is unemployed once the manufacturing of the current vehicle ends," the union said in a statement ahead of further restructuring talks scheduled for Wednesday.

"We demand security for the employees through the end of 2018."

IG Metall's statement acknowledged the dire state of the European auto market that has shrunk to levels not seen since 1995.

"The economic situation of the company (Opel) is worse than ever before and has reached a dimension that threatens its existence. Due to a historically low market share, the production plants in Europe are utilised only to 50 percent," the union said.

It warned that no German Opel plant was safe, now that the weakest would be weeded out.

"In the short term the colleagues in the Bochum plant are most affected, but in the mid-term no one is secure. No factory has concrete assurances that ensure a sufficient utilisation of its capacity even for the mid-term," said IG Metall.

When contacted by Reuters, Bochum's senior labour leader said he would not oppose the catalog of union demands that tacitly agree to a closure of his plant.

"There was a majority in favour, and as a democrat I have to accept it," said Bochum's works council chief Rainer Einenkel, who has fought for the plant to receive a new model when production of the new Zafira Tourer MPV ends in 2016.

He found it "highly unusual" that the union would publish a statement revealing its strategy for reaching a labour deal governing the over 20,000 employees in Germany prior to discussing it in private with management.

"I've never seen this happen before, and I have been a union member for 40 years now," he said.

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