FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Opel workers in Bochum, Germany, appear to have lost a high-stakes gamble to save their factory after an attempt to put pressure on Opel parent General Motors backfired and GM opted to close the plant ahead of schedule.
Egged on by their local labor leader, Rainer Einenkel, three quarters of the plant's workforce voted on Thursday against ending production at the end of 2016. Within the hour Opel said all concessions were off the table, scheduled no further talks and returned to its original plan to halt assembly of transmissions this year and cease car production at the end of 2014.
"Einenkel told the workforce that they would have a stronger bargaining position if they reject the deal. He did everything possible to ensure they would vote against it," a source at the company said. "I wonder what workers will do when they realize they put all their trust in Einenkel, only to see him gamble and lose."
One Opel labor leader said that GM's move should not be interpreted as an empty threat. "This was no hot-headed spontaneous reaction," the union member said. "Rather, it reveals management was well prepared for the eventuality and moved ahead with their (previously) announced alternative."
Another labor source close to the talks said that management would not even have to worry about a wildcat strike in Bochum like the one in 2004, since all production is stopping until April 3 because of weak demand in Europe. "Who would even notice if there was a strike?" he said.