Opel demands workers work longer hours to secure production at Bochum plants

Bochum, Germany. Adam Opel AG is demanding increased flexibility over working hours and an increase of the number of working hours per week from workers at its Bochum factories.

It is understood that the company wants to increase number of working hours per week to 38 from 35.

Jan Brems, director of the two Opel plants in Bochum said: "We have to send a signal to Detroit. If we increase the number of working hours we will gain an additional capacity of 20,000 units a year. This capacity could be used for a further model or for a different body version."

This could secure Bochum's long-term future as a production site, he added.

Bochum has increased productivity by 10 percent each year since 2002. "But this is not sufficient," Brems said adding that the average cost for each vehicle built at the Eisenach plant is 23 percent less due to low labor costs and 8 percent lower at the Antwerp plant.

Another disadvantage of the 42-year-old Bochum plant is its old-fashioned production layout. "We are working on three levels, which increases our logistics costs," said Brems

He is convinced that the group will not finance a complete restructuring of the plant. Opel has already invested 53 million euros in a new pressing plant, another 400 million euros will be spent on the start-up of the Astra Caravan and Zafira before mid-2005.

Production of the new Astra station wagon will start beginning of August. "By the end of the year we will have manufactured 40,000 Caravans. The plan is to build up to 80,000 units in 2005," Brems said.

Around 200,000 Zafira compact vans will be manufactured in 2004. For 2005 Brems only expects 130,000 units because of the model change due at the end of March 2005.

The plant will reduce production from two lines to one on June 27 with annual capacity falling to 260,000 units from 340,000. "This reduction hurts us. But it is time to better balance our capacities within Europe," Brems said.

Opel has cut a total of 2,500 jobs within Europe as part of the Olympia restructuring program, 1,600 of which were lost at the two Bochum plants.

Currently 9,800 people still work there. By the end of 2004 a further 180 employees will go into early retirement or move within the company. Until the end of 2005 the number of employees should remain stable.

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