FRANKFURT, June 26 (Reuters) - A German union leader said on Tuesday General Motors appears willing to invest in growing its European arm Opel, a tentative sign that GM and powerful German labour leaders are making progress in talks over restructuring.
“We have the impression that there is a learning process at GM,” said Armin Schild, the head of union IG Metall for the region that is home to Opel’s headquarters.
Opel’s supervisory board, in which labour representatives play a key role, is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss management’s mid-term business plan that should turn the loss-making unit around.
“The business plan must reflect the aim to gain market share in Europe over the long term,” Schild continued, adding that the union was well aware how difficult this would be given its expectation that the western European car market would continue to shrink in the foreseeable future.
GM and German labour leaders like Schild are in separate restructuring talks that could foresee the end of production at Opel’s Bochum plant in 2017 in exchange for ruling out any compulsory layoffs in Germany through the end of 2016.
When asked whether he expected some other form of socially-acceptable staff cuts through measures like severance packages or normal attrition, he said: “Not only can that not be ruled out, it’s actually likely that it will come to that.”
While the German union hopes to prevent the closure of Bochum, Schild made it clear that the outlook was highly uncertain for the Zafira MPV plant.
“No one, not IG Metall either, cannot ensure the people in Bochum have a future just by saying so — it has to be earned,” he said.
While GM is trying to cut costs and reduce idle output capacity in Europe, it is being pushed by unions to invest more in new models and technology to counter a decline in market share.