German unions resigned to closure of Opel plant

HAMBURG Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:23pm EST

HAMBURG Jan 30 (Reuters) - Trade unions have accepted the prospect of Germany's first car plant closure in decades and are now pushing for a painless exit for workers at the Opel factory in Bochum.

The factory was built half a century ago atop an abandoned coal mine in Germany's now economically depressed steel heartland.

Production there is due to end in 2016. A senior labour official told Reuters the unions hope to reach a deal with Opel parent General Motors Co that offers the workers some prospect of further employment.

On Tuesday, union IG Metall's headquarters in Frankfurt distributed a list of demands for talks that have dragged on since June, in which it made clear it had effectively declared the fight for Bochum lost.

It hopes to receive guarantees from GM and Opel that the Bochum employees will have some kind of work until the end of 2018.

"Our goal remains to keep vehicle production in Bochum and I think it would be foolish at the moment to entirely rule that out in the future. But we have to understand that there are no such plans currently," said Armin Schild, regional boss of IG Metall Mitte.

"So the only thing we are left with then is to list our minimum demands for the Bochum plant that don't include vehicle production. While we haven't given up on our goal, we have to cope with the realities created by management."

GM expects to post an operating loss of at least $1.5 billion in Europe for last year amid a severe slump in the market, with only a slight improvement expected in 2013.

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