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Tech & Science Car manufacturer in crisis: Opel plans transfer companies and short-time work until the end of 2021

22:10  27 september  2020
22:10  27 september  2020 Source:   handelsblatt.com

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Es soll nun Alternativen zu einer Kündigungswelle geben. © dpa There should now be alternatives to a wave of layoffs.

In order to avert layoffs, the management and works council of the car manufacturer have agreed on alternative options to cut hundreds of jobs.

Last week, Opel Labor Director Ralph Wangemann threatened the carmaker's workforce with redundancies. Now, after heavy criticism from the union and politics, these seem to be largely off the table again. At least the management of the vehicle manufacturer agreed on key points with the works council on Friday in order to address the “short-term, substantial surplus of staff”, as stated in a circular to the employees that is available to the Handelsblatt.

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Accordingly, Opel wants to extend the short-time work , which has been going on for months, "until the end of 2021" due to the corona crisis. However, the employment agency's approval is still pending. What is clear, however, is that production at the headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Hesse, in particular, is struggling with overcapacity and that many fitters will probably work short time for another year.

Because the Insignia sedan produced here sells poorly. The additional production of the small car Astra and a model of the DS brand of the French parent company PSA (Peugeot, Citroën) should not provide a remedy until autumn 2021.

Opel also wants to open its partial retirement program to employees born in 1964. For so-called “focus areas”, in which the group sees a particularly drastic excess of staff, Opel is examining the offer of transfer companies. Specifically, the change to a transfer company is to be proposed to employees in the Rüsselsheim prototype construction, the parts warehouse, the tool shop and the engineering workshops. A “special program for those born between 1961 and 1964” is also planned for these specialists. The car manufacturer did not provide any details. According to reports, Opel wants a significant three-digit number of employees to switch to a transfer company.

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Approach is criticized

A transfer company serves to enable employees threatened by unemployment to transition to a new job, for example through referral or qualification. In order to join the transfer company voluntarily, the contracts of those affected are usually canceled. You will then receive a temporary job with the company for a maximum of twelve months. During this time, the employment agency pays transfer short-time work benefits. This saves the company the costs of severance payments and termination processes.

In Opel group circles, however, it is doubted that hundreds of employees really agree to switch to a transfer company. After all, according to the future collective agreement, employees are protected against layoffs until mid-2025. “Who should voluntarily switch to such a vehicle and give up their claims?” Asks an Opel veteran.

Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, head of the Center of Automotive Research (CAR), criticizes the "transparent approach" of the Rüsselsheim vehicle manufacturer. “On the one hand, reporting a profit and, on the other hand, applying for more than a year of short-time work and putting pressure on the employees with transfer companies, that doesn't fit together,” says the auto expert. His accusation: "Ultimately, the state should promote Opel's profits." It is a matter of bridging a “temporary loss of work” due to the pandemic with the help of insurance benefits.

In the coming days, Opel management and works council want to convert their key issues paper into concrete agreements. "We will shortly provide comprehensive information on further details and the design of the measures", announced both sides in the letter to the workforce.

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