Strikes in eastern Germany disrupt production at carmakers, suppliers in western Germany

Berlin. Last week's strikes by IG Metall in the former East German states have substantially disturbed automotive production in Germany. Beside Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler, three suppliers were directly hit by the strikes: GKN (propeller-shafts), ZF Brandenburg (transmissions) and Federal-Mogul (piston rings). Locations in the West of Germany were also affected by the walkouts.

The Automotive Industry Association, Verband der Autoindustrie (VDA), criticized the "location, timing and character" of the wage dispute. VDA president Bernd Gottschalk is worried that the development process in the former East German states might come to a halt.

Audi only narrowly escaped a production stoppage because the propeller-shaft manufacturer GKN in Zwickau agreed over a collective contract with the work's council that the production of Audi A4s and A8s could continue as normal. In order to supply Audi with the usual amount of propeller-shafts -- according to GKN factory manager Peter Scholz Audi requires 3,500 units per day -- the workers at the GKN plants in Zwickau, Offenbach and Kiel had to work additional shifts over the last week-end. The manufacture of the Mercedes A-class in Rastatt was also affected by delivery problems at GKN.

The situation at BMW is worse: from June 23 production of the 3 series at the plants in Munich and Regensburg will be idled. The Dingolfing, Steyr and Landshut plants will also stop manufacturing. The reason for this is a strike at the transmission supplier ZF in Brandenburg. Should the ZF plant resume work by the beginning of this week the production of the 3 series could start no earlier than 2 pm, Wednesday, June 25, a BMW manager explained. The company has sent "more than 10,000 employees" home for two days. VW was hit even harder: during the past three weeks employees at all three plants in eastern Germany have gone on strike. The group announced losses of 13,350 cars and 40,800 engines.

Production at the piston-rings manufacturer Federal-Mogul continued despite a blockade. Helicopters flew workers to the plant and components out.

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