Opel workers at Bochum urged to revote on restructuring deal

Article by Anita Panait, on April 25, 2013

The president of the United Auto Workers union is urging workers at Opel's Bochum site in Germany to agree to a deal they had rejected to keep the plant open. Bob King, who is also a member of Opel's supervisory board, quipped that the plant’s hourly workers should ask to vote again on the restructuring deal that they declined in March 2013.

The deal would have resulted to keeping the Bochum site open until end of 2016 and retaining 1,200 of the over 3,000 plant employees. The rejection of the deal has forced Opel to fast-track the site’s closure by two years until the end of 2014, when the carmaker will stop producing Zafira minivans in the site.

The closure of the Bochum site is part of Opel management's strategy to achieve profitability in 2015. King remarked that he would “really hate to see” the Bochum plant close when IG Metall and the works council have exerted much effort to keep it open. King noted that while a re-vote is a rare occurrence, it has been done in the United States.

In 2008, workers at a former Ford Motor Co. glass plant appealed for a revote. In 1999, union leaders in a Flat Rock site in Michigan then operated by Ford and Mazda suggested a second vote. King remarked that he is hoping that if he talked about the re-vote in the US, Bochum’s workers might do the same. The UAW head remarked that while he doesn’t know if a re-vote is possible, he hopes to at least “open up a door of opportunity for people to talk."

GM officials said that Bochum’s employees had voted and that the carmaker is focused on supporting the development agency 'Bochum Prospects 2022,' which is an initiative to entice new companies to invest in the Ruhr region of northwest Germany where the site is located.

GM spokesman Harald Hamprecht told Automotive News in an e-mail that they gave the employees a clear choice and they respect the outcome. He added that the Opel supervisory board acted accordingly and is “moving on." GM had previously remarked that no further discussions on the labor deal would occur. Opel’s management board approved the plant’s closure last week.

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