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Auto Industry

Little hope for Opel's Bochum plant, but talks may continue

The closure of an Opel plant in western Germany in 2014 looks almost certain after employees at the Bochum facility rejected a restructuring plan. But negotiations may not be completely over yet.

The economics minister of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Garrelt Duin, said Friday IG Metall trade union leaders were doubling their efforts to bring the executive of the carmaker's plant in Bochum back to the negotiating table.

Union representatives confirmed such efforts were being made despite management's announcement there would be no more talks.

Employees at the Bochum facility producing the Zafira brand had earlier rejected a restructuring deal that would have ensured production at the plant until 2016. But after failed negotiations, the executive said operations in Bochum would now cease at the end of next year.

Management of the plant belonging to General Motors' European division had offered to keep the ailing facility open for another two years and the retain 1,200 of the 3,500 workers in other component and warehousing jobs.

Hoping for another offer?

In return, workers would have had to agree on wage hikes being postponed. But in a vote at the site, 76 percent of the workforce rejected the offer, with union leaders saying the plan was far too vague in parts.

"A big chance has been lost", the head of the Opel plant, Manfred Gellrich, said in a statement, while the IG Metall union's regional leader, Knut Giesler, spoke of "a clear vote of no confidence in the Opel management."

Works Council chief Rainer Einenkel said the talk about closing the plant as early as 2014 was a hollow threat. A council leaflet said a relocation of the Zafira production to other facilities would make no sense because of the high investment costs involved and the lack of expertise there.

hg/jlw (Reuters, dpa)