General Motors Co. (GM:US)’s Opel brand will keep a spare-parts distribution center open until 2016 at its plant in Bochum, Germany, as long as two years after vehicle production ends at the site, to respect an operating agreement.
Opel will fulfill a contract with Neovia Logistics Services LLC that expires in three years, Alexander Bazio, a plant spokesman, said today in an interview at the site.
The Bochum factory, which makes the Zafira van, is scheduled to close by the end of 2014 after workers rejected a restructuring plan in March that would have extended manufacturing there for another two years in exchange for wage concessions. Opel had said earlier that the logistics center, which it said today supplies spare parts to dealers in Europe with a workforce of 430, would close when carmaking ceases.
Opel’s management, under the leadership of newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Karl-Thomas Neumann, is negotiating with unions on early retirement and severance packages for the Bochum location’s 3,000 employees. Workers at GM’s four other German plants have agreed to a wage freeze in return for the company (GM:US)’s pledge to avoid mass firings through 2016 as part of a project to make Ruesselsheim, Germany-based Opel profitable.
The agreement rejected by the Bochum employees would have prolonged Zafira production at the plant until the current model expires at end of 2016. The agreement would have kept about 1,200 jobs in Bochum beyond that year in component manufacturing and logistics.
Car workers at Bochum halted production today during a works council information session that lasted more than 2 1/2 hours. Opel will need to spend about 100 million euros ($129 million) to shift production of the current Zafira to Ruesselsheim, said Rainer Einenkel, head of the Bochum factory’s works council, said at the meeting.
Opel views the model’s move as “economically viable,” spokesman Bazio said, declining to comment on the figure.
The Bochum plant manager, Manfred Gellrich, didn’t speak to the workers in public today and instead made a statement to employees in a hall at the site, Bazio said.
More than 1,000 workers participated in today’s stoppage, said Einenkel.
GM’s European division, which also includes Opel’s U.K. sister car brand Vauxhall, narrowed its first-quarter loss to $175 million from $294 million a year earlier. GM’s deficit in the region since 1999 exceeds $18 billion. The Detroit-based company has laid out plans to invest (GM:US) $4 billion through 2016 to develop 23 vehicles and 13 new engines to ensure the European division will break even by 2015.
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