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ISSUE 59 page 3

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Nokia moves on again as Opel closure worries old home town
THE TOWN OF BOCHUM IN GERMANY”S OLD INDUSTRIAL heartland, the Ruhr, was hit by the closure of its Nokia mobile ‘phone factory in 2008 (see issue 42) leaving car firm Opel as the major employer. After the demise of a takeover deal two years later Opel began to make cuts, closing a plant in Antwerp and making 4,000 redundancies in Germany (see issue 49). Now there have been two further developments which illustrate the peripatetic nature of modern manufacturing and the worth of company promises to local communities. Having   received €100 million in public subsidies for their German plant Nokia moved to Romania where wages were a tenth as much and more subsidies were available, vowing to build a ‘Nokia village’ in Cluj. At the end of last year the
village was closed down as the Nokia subsidy caravan moved on to Asia and, possibly, next-door Moldova. German and Italian firms Bosch and De Longhi are to move into the industrial park in the town of Jucu with rumours of more financial support from the local authority. Meanwhile in Bochum Opel told the company’s European Works Council (EWC) that production capacity must be cut by 30%. It has lost $10 billion in Europe since 1999, its last profitable year. Workers fear that the Bochum factory will be picked on because of its age and the decision to allocate the buliding of a new model to a plant in South Korea. At a meeting with several thousand union members employee representatives handed out T-shirts in bright yellow, the Opel color, that said, ‘We’re staying in Bochum’.

Signposts must be changed in Romania but Opel workers hope to keep jobs in Germany



SAAB reborn as electric phoenix rises from bankruptcy ashes

WE HAVE CARRIED MANY REPORTS OF THE SEEMINGLY endless tribulations of the Swedish vehicle manufacturer SAAB (see issue 55). Apparently saved from going bust in June last year by a large order from Pang Da Automobile of China, the firm staggered on until December when it filed for bankruptcy with the cars still unbuilt. As well as costing the Chinese company €45 million the bankruptcy proceedings revealed that SAAB possessed assets that would only cover one third of its debts. However, both its factory at Trollhättan in southern Sweden, its skilled workers and its technical know-how were still in demand as another Chinese firm, Youngman, and an Indian one, Mahindra and Mahindra, negotiated with administrators to buy the stricken manufacturer. Now a new entrant, National Electirc Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) has scooped the pool. The company, which is jointly financed by Hong Kong and Japan-based funds, bid a reported €250 million to take over the factory as a production unit for an electric version of the SAAB 9-3 model, promising to employ ‘a few hundred at least’ in the words of NEVS chairman Karl-Erling Troge. He continued ‘we have a world–class plant and a lot of expertise in this area. Initially we’ll be recruiting engineers and management’. Swedish union IF Metall, which had earlier asked President Obama for help in saving SAAB, suppported the deal: ‘It's exciting to focus on electric vehicles, which are very timely in an international perspective…With this new focus, new export opportunities will likely open up’.
Although the new model will be made at Trollhättan it will not necessari1y bear the SAAB marque, so prized that enthusiasts have collected 200,000 kronor to buy the last of the old version to roll off the production line. Nor is it likely to be sold in Sweden as marketing will be aimed at China. Under a previous deal with the Beijing Automotive Group Chinese versions of the 9-3 and 9-5 designs are due to appear later this year.

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