Early last week, the leadership of the IG Metall labor union and the Opel-Vauxhall European Works Council met with representatives of French automaker PSA Group, as General Motors continues to hold negotiations of the potential sale of its European Opel-Vauxhall unit to PSA.
Taking place on February 20, the meeting was attended by Carlos Tavares, CEO and Chairman of the board of the PSA Group, Xavier Chéreau, Executive VP of Human Resources at PSA, Jörg Hofmann, First Chairman of IG Metall, and Dr. Wolfgang Schäfer-Klug, Chairman of the Opel/Vauxhall European Works Council. According to the union, participants expressed a mutual desire for a dialogue regarding the future of Opel and its employees and also discussed the impact of the potential acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall by PSA on existing labour agreements, site protection and job guarantees.
The PSA Group reaffirmed its commitment to respect the existing agreements in the European countries and to continue engaging in dialogue with all involved parties. In addition, the French automaker announced that it is willing to closely cooperate with the European Works Council and IndustriALL’s German affiliate IG Metall in order to “create together with Opel-Management a European Champion with French-German roots to protect the future of the company and its employees”.
“Cooperating with IG Metall, while respecting and implementing existing collective agreements is an important condition for the further process”, said Jörg Hofmann, President of IG Metall and IndustriALL Global Union. “It is the basis for a possible merger on the employees’ terms.”
“This commitment and the agreement of a further negotiation process provides the basis of further talks with PSA”, said Wolfgang Schäfer-Klug, Chairman of the Opel/Vauxhall European Works Council. Referring to the PSA chief, Schäfer-Klug added that “Tavares communicated convincingly in the talks that he is interested in a sustainable development for Opel/Vauxhall as an independent company.”
The union added that its global framework agreement with the PSA Group, which was first signed in 2006, “has a clear commitment to international core labor standards and stresses the extension of the Group’s requirements to its business partners”. The agreement is set to be renewed on March 7, 2017.
“With the renewal of the GFA [Global Framework Agreeement] we’ll strive to secure all the jobs and production sites of PSA and Opel/Vauxhall worldwide”, said Valter Sanches, IndustriALL General Secretary.
In the days following the meeting, PSA chief Tavares met with German officials to discuss the four Opel plants in the country, making assurances of jobs and investments in case the acquisition is finalized. In addition, U.K. officials have also been in contact with Tavares regarding the future of Vauxhall production in the country. The two Vauxhall plants were initially believed to be at risk of being closed by PSA as part of strategic cost savings plans initiated by the French automaker; however, it is now believed that the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port will remain open at least until the year 2021, while the fate of the Vauxhall plant in Luton is uncertain. What’s more, it has been reported that Opel’s European Works Council has initiated contact with its equivalent at the PSA Group.
General Motors is in advanced stages of negations to sell its European operations to PSA. Informally known as Opel, the unit consists of the Opel brand, which is sold all over Europe except for the United Kingdom, as well as the British Vauxhall brand, which is sold exclusively in the U.K. The two firms are reportedly looking to finalize negations by March 1, prior to the start of the 2017 Geneva International Auto Show.