German neo-Nazis are trying to infiltrate Daimler: works council

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Neo-Nazis are attempting to infiltrate one of Germany's biggest car makers, Daimler DAIGn.DE, to turn a key factory into a showcase for their views, the plant's works council said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The Mercedes star logo of an E Coupe is pictured before the annual news conference of Daimler AG in Stuttgart, Germany, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

The neo-Nazis belong to various groups and are using an alternative union, the Zentrum Automobil, as a base, said the works council, which is made up of union members and negotiates with management.

“The right-wing activities and the entanglements in neo-Nazi actions and organizations and the related public coverage are causing substantial damage to labor representation and through this are threatening our jobs,” said the works council at the Untertuerkheim plant in southern Germany.

Its statement did not specify which neo-Nazi groups were involved but named individuals at the plant and said the infiltration was “not acceptable.”

Media in southern Germany reported this month that several labor representatives at Daimler’s headquarters in Untertuerkheim, where 19,000 staff are employed, were affiliated with neo-Nazi groups and have voiced xenophobic views.

The reports come at a time of heightened concern about the far-right because the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which critics equate with far right politics, could become the largest opposition bloc in parliament.

This month the AfD surpassed the center-left Social Democrats in a nationwide opinion poll.

Staff at Daimler, Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE and other firms in Germany's metalworking industry are due to elect new labor representatives over the next three months so management and unions are keen to quench any far-right activity.

“It appears as if Untertuerkheim, with the help of labor councillors on the “Liste Zentrum” is to become a far-right showcase project” for the whole of Germany, the statement said. The Liste Zentrum is another name for the alternative union.

Workers founded the alternative union in 2009 four years before the AfD was set up and some media in Stuttgart where Daimler is based said some of its members include neo-Nazis.

“The works council of Untertuerkheim categorically opposes such an abuse of labor council mandates for right-wing goals and purposes,” it said.

Zentrum Automobil did not provide any immediate comment. On its web page, it opposes exporting jobs abroad and criticized Daimler’s main union, IG Metall, for colluding with management to the detriment of workers.

Daimler said on Wednesday it opposes any far right activity among its workforce and would monitor developments closely.

“We stand by the liberal, democratic basic order and expect all employees to live tolerance in their daily work and to act together with respect, openness, faith and fairness,” the website said.

Daimler produced armaments for the Nazis before and during World War Two, making the issue of possible far right infiltration particularly sensitive for the company.

Writing by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg