Opel’s unions are to convene urgent talks with their French counterparts as fears grow of job losses and plant closures should General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen proceed with their planned alliance.
The US and French giants are looking to generate colossal savings of US$2bn per year in a bid to stem the slide in performance, that recently saw the Detroit manufacturer post a US$700m loss for its European operations last year, but talk of an alliance has brought back unhappy memories of GM and Fiat’s powertrain joint venture in 2000.
However, fears of potential forced redundancies and plant closures have led to unions on both sides of the new alliance deciding to meet and plan their response to a decision that German sources indicated had “nothing to do” with Europe and everything to do with Detroit.
“Yesterday (7 March) the chairman of the German works council and the IG Metall [labour union] met and decided to get in contact with the French unions,” a highly reliable German union source, who requested anomymity, told just-auto.
“We have bad feelings about this – both sides have underused plants [which] can only be money-making by closing plants – this is what we guess.
“It is possible, job losses, many things are possible. There can be a lot of possibilities, forced redundancies, plant closures, not only in production [but] in the supply chain, planning and development.”
The German union source also raised the worry Opel’s own component sourcing could be subsumed should any alliance take place. Faurecia is a PSA affiliate and as the source put it: “One of the largest component makers in Europe – there is potential for pressure from management.”
News of any alliance – that could be structured around sharing of vehicle platforms, components and modules as well as a global purchasing joint venture – seems to have taken Opel management by a certain amount of surprise, according to the source.
“The decision was made in Detroit,” he said. “The European management have nothing to with this decision – they just got it – they have to live with it.”
Union nervousness at the proposed tie-up is prompted partly by the unhappy arrangement Opel and Fiat entered into – a deal the source noted that ended in “expensive divorce” a few years ago.
“We have had in our history, Fiat and it does not work, Fiat was an expensive divorce,” he said. “Maybe here, they will make the same mistakes and we have to pay for it again.”
Fiat and GM signed a separation agreement in 2005 dissolving the purchasing and powertrain joint venture companies formed in 2000.
Before crunch talks with French unions in a venue yet to be decided, the works council will also hold a meeting with its British colleagues in Russelsheim this Thursday (9 March).
Intense speculation equally surrounds Vauxhall’s plant at Ellesmere Port in north-west England, with UK business secretary Vince Cable meeting GM CEO Dan Akerson in New York last week, to press Britain’s case as an automotive powerhouse in Europe.