The Chinese Opel bidder Beijing Automotive’s (BAIC) plan to idle production at the company’s Eisenach plant in Germany for two years following a takeover could effectively ruin productivity there, a senior labour leader has said.
“Just as good musicians need the practice, so do our staff. It is a permanent learning process working in a factory since operations are constantly being improved and optimised,” Eisenach works council Harald Lieske told Reuters, fearing BAIC’s plan would represent a “plant closure through other means.”
The news agency noted that labour traditionally plays an influential role in Germany, and its fierce opposition to Fiat severely weakened that carmaker’s position in talks with GM and the German government about Opel.
BAIC is hoping to nudge out favourite Magna International’s consortium in the bid for Opel.
“At one point GM also considered idling Eisenach for two years as part of its viability plan but decided against it because it is practically not feasible,” Lieske said.
Even though BAIC proposed to keep the 1,800 workers in Eisenach on the payroll via Germany’s generous partial unemployment programme, Lieske said the young, flexible and skilled workers highly valued in the industry would almost certainly have to find a new employer in the meantime.
“We ourselves already try to avoid long, uninterrupted periods of ‘Kurzarbeit’ by splitting stoppages up so production is idled one day out of the week, for example,” he said. Kurzarbeit is the German name of the programme, and loosely translates to “shortened working”.
Lieske told Reuters Eisenach needs just 14 hours to manufacture a Corsa, making it the most productive of GM’s European sites and highly competitive versus rivals in the subcompact segment.
The economics minister of the German state Thuringia, where the plant is situated, earlier told Reuters BAIC’s plan was “completely out of the question”.