PARIS Nov 4 Bitterness, anger and disbelief
mixed with betrayal and even resignation are just some of the
emotions boiling within Germany following Tuesday's shocking
news that General Motors [GM.UL] will scrap its sale of Opel.
After months of protracted negotiations with a consortium
led by Canadian auto parts maker Magna MGa.TO that finally
led to GM approving a sale on Sept. 10 backed heavily by
unions, the carmaker's board of directors reversed course and
voted now simply to restructure Opel "in earnest" itself.
GM confirmed the decision made by its 13-member board after
a meeting of directors on Tuesday in Detroit, saying that
improving business conditions and the strategic importance of
Opel to its operations had prompted the move.[ID:nN03518816]
Opel's labour leaders have agreed to contribute 265 million
euros ($388 million) in annual savings as part of a much-needed
restructuring plan, but made that contingent on a sale to
"Unfortunately my suspicion seems to been confirmed that
the decision to sell Opel to Magna was connected with the
elections later that month in Germany," Opel's senior labour
leader in Bochum, Rainer Einenkel, told Reuters.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and key allies in her conservative
party lobbied heavily in Magna's favour ahead of the
parliamentary elections on Sept. 27, thinly veiling a threat
that no German aid would flow should any other decision be
Another Opel worker representative cursed when hearing the
news and called GM's reversal a "challenge to fight," only to
then add that there was a feeling among colleagues "the most
favourable moment was already behind us and the danger grew
with each day that passed" that the sale to Magna could
Those working at European plants on GM's endangered list
like the Belgian site in Antwerp have long sniffed conspiracy
ever since it first signed a letter of intent back at the end
of May, suggesting Detroit was just using Magna to get an
emergency taxpayer loan for Opel.
Although shocked by GM's decision, a union source conceded
that somehow GM and Opel will have sit down and work out a
restructuring plan that labour believes could cost alone in
Germany the closures of plants in Bochum, Eisenach and even
"We cannot boycott the company," said the person, who was
not in a position to comment publicly at this time.
When Fritz Henderson was running GM's European operations,
his plans to cut thousands of jobs at Opel spawned a wildcat
strike several years ago in Bochum, but Einenkel said work
would continue there on Wednesday.
"Zafiras will continue to be built in Bochum tomorrow
because that's how the people can show what they do best," he
said late on Tuesday.
The roughly 5,200 people in Bochum are accustomed to fear
after GM's repeated threats over the years to close the plant,
where Zafira compact vans are assembled.
"All we have left is the Zafira. Take that away and its
tantamount to a closure," Einenkel said.
(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; editing by Carol Bishopric)