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GM expansion in Poland angers German unions

General Motors has angered German trade unions by announcing yesterday that its Opel subsidiary would expand production of its new Zafira family car in Poland rather than at Russelsheim its main German factory.

The announcement comes a week after GM reorganised its European operations, which also include the Saab and Vauxhall brands, to centralise control in Zurich Switzerland.

Opel said its work in Gliwice, Poland offered “significant competitive advantages” compared with the groups other production facilities.

Production of the Zafira in Gliwice will be in addition to that in Bochum, Germany, it said.

The expansion by GM in Poland is a boost for car manufacturing in eastern Europe and coincides with moves by DaimlerChrylser to negotiate cost efficiency measures at its Mercedes factories in Germany.

Erich Klemm, head of DaimlerChrysler’s workers council, has warned 10,000 jobs could be threatened if the way was not paved for additional investment in new Mercedes models.

The Opel workers’ council said the decision had been taken “on purely political considerations”. Its statement said: “It is economically wrong and directed against Germany as an investment location and the employees of Adam Opel.

Account had not been taken of the commitments the workers’ council was prepared to make to boost the competitiveness of the Russlesheim site, the statement says.

Last week Klaus Franz, head of the Opel’s workers’ council, said the decision on Zafira production would be a test of the new GM Europe management structure, which saw Carl-Peter Forster, Opel’s head, promoted to president of GM Europe.

(Source: Financial Times)

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