When GM decided to hand 55% of Opel to Magna, you didn't think the Belgians were just going to have some waffles and call it quits, did you? Oh no. Belgium's prime minister made a call to the EU president about the deal, and the EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes told a Belgian newspaper, "If something happens against the rules, I will take action."

According to the prime minister, however, the rules have already been broken. Even though Magna has said it will need to trim more workers than expected, the Belgian leader said, "Financial aid given by a country that guarantees that the factories in their country don't close is against EU rules." The sale to Magna has observers screaming, "Politics!" but has made German Chancellor Angela Merkel look very good in the run-up to elections on September 27; with EU scrutiny all she really needs to hope for is that it takes them longer than two weeks to come to an adverse finding, if that should happen.

Opel labor, however, isn't so pleased anymore now that Magna has said it will need to eliminate more jobs than it originally proposed. Initial estimates put job losses at 2,500 workers in Germany; now the Canadian company is saying 4,100 jobs could be lost. It appears that Opel workers plan to assert themselves if Magna does anything differently than it said it would. In addition, labor wants "a veto right over job cuts, transfer of production or plant closures," which are the kinds of rights VW labor unions have. If you ask us, the dust on this one is nowhere near settled.

[Source: Automotive News, sub req'd]




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