Q&A: DaimlerChrysler union chief still supports merger and Juergen Schrempp

Stuttgart. Erich Klemm, head of the DaimlerChrysler workers' council and member of the supervisory board, talked to Automobilwoche about job cuts, stock market movements and the re-election of Juergen Schrempp.

Q: Mr. Klemm, on November 17 DaimlerChrysler shares were celebrating their fifth birthday. Were you celebrating, too?

A: I didn't celebrate, but then there is no reason not to. The synergies between both companies are starting to work, the structures are taking shape and in the coming year we will be able to see some palpable success on a global scale.

Q: Are you happy with all the developments and decisions at the top of the company?

A: Of course, it didn't all go well. And certainly there will never be a relationship in which there is no conflict between the management and the workers' council. There are always issues, especially regarding topics such as job security and insourcing. But the unions have always supported the general direction of the management.

Q: How many jobs have been lost because of the merger?

A: The merger didn't cost any jobs. I would like to make that clear. Contrary to most mergers, there was no doubling up of work, which would have made whole sectors redundant on both sides of the Atlantic. Chrysler would have had to shed personnel, even if the merger had never happened.

Q: How do you rate the group's involvement in Mitsubishi Motors?

A: There are plenty of promising joint projects with Chrysler that already justify the partnership. All that is needed now is some time and some investments in new products.

Q: Isn't the brand Mercedes-Benz suffering from being constantly milked as the group's cash cow?

A: There is this old disease within the group. The automobile branch of Mercedes-Benz always has to cover for other sectors and help them get back on their feet. As labor representatives, we have always been concerned that the Mercedes plants and products should be adequately supplied to ensure there will be no disadvantages for Mercedes-Benz workers in the future.

Q: Have there also been advantages for the Mercedes-Benz workers coming out of this merger?

A: Yes, because the group has become decidedly more stable and therefore less susceptible to hostile actions or even takeovers. Apart from that, the share in results is still being calculated separately. This means that workers in the automobile and truck sectors don't suffer financially due to the losses of other sectors of the group.

Q: But many workers are also shareholders. When will you and thousands of others profit from the merger?

A: Share prices aren't at their current level because of the management's performance, but because of the general economic climate. I keep saying that it makes sense for the work force to buy shares. Share prices will probably never again be as low as they are now.

Q: Would you like to see CEO Juergen Schrempp stay in his position beyond 2005?

A: Clearly yes! The labor representatives have in fact asked Juergen Schrempp to put himself up for one more term. What he has begun has not yet been finished. Juergen Schrempp should keep going. That's also important for the continuity of leadership in the group.

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