Trollhattan plant stops work

Looks like some of you Swede’s might have to wait an extra day to get your new Biopower 9-5’s.

Saab workers at Trollhattan have downed tools over concerns for the future of the facility.

Seems that the coffee has officially been smelled and the realisation made by all concerned that the Saabillac ain’t going to cut it in terms of volume. That’s part of my reading into the situation, anyway.

This from The Local:

Saab workers in Sweden downed tools for several hours on Monday, demanding that parent company General Motors make a decision about the future of its European plants.

Saab has said it is planning a new, small Saab. The company’s CEO Jan-Åke Jonsson told TT that it is still planned for the factory in Trollhättan, near Gothenburg, to build the small car. It is intended for the new model to be phased in when the current models are taken out of production.

Jonsson also hopes that the factory will build the new Opel Astra, which will use the same platform. These models would secure the plants future after 2010. He added that relations with unions were good.

But union representatives expressed concern.

“We are worried that there are secret plans, and that that is the reason that the GM management don’t want to talk with us,” Paul Åkerlund, union spokesman in Trollhättan, told a meeting of 500 employees at the end of Monday morning’s shift.

Åkerlund was flanked by Mari-Ann Krantz, chairwoman of the Sif office workers union and Anders Tiderman of the IF Metall.

“It is very bad that they don’t want to talk with unions,” said Alf Holm, a worker at the factory, after the meeting.

He added that the climate at the company had become worse in the past year. Industrial action in the form of information meetings, strikes and overtime bans have been taking place at GM’s plants across Europe. A meeting will be held next week to decide how far unions have succeeded in persuading management to conduct a dialogue.

Mari-Ann Krantz said that she shared Åkerlund’s fear that GM has a secret agenda.

“Moreover, I do not believe that they are sitting there with a blank sheet of paper,” she said.

“All employees need to adapt – we are living in a changing world. The problem is how long time changes take,” said Anders Tiderman.

There has been some consternation recently over other GM plants, particularly a plant in Portugal (if I remember correctly). It’s a shame this sort of uncertainty has to taint what has been a much better year for GM Europe.

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4 Comments

  1. Oh, how I weary of union saber rattling. GM’s costs are spiralling upward, choking the comany, and a plant in one of the highest wage and tax states in the world has a beef with the work going elsewhere? Methinks they should look within to show that they are worth that premium.

    The average auto worker in Sweden is paid about 40% more and gets more than double the vacation time of his/her American counterpart. On top of that, the corporate taxes in Sweden are about 40% higher than in the US as well. Trollhattan thinks that GM owes them a living? Nope. GM doesn’t. At this point, Trollhattan should be glad that the plug hasn’t already been pulled.

    And, NO I don’t want Trollhattan to go away. I want Saab to remain there, too. However, Trollhattan must remain competitive on a global scale to stay in the manufacturing game. Hourly wage earners are the largest cost by far.

    I think that Trollhattan can keep the capacity, but it will likely take a sizeable government subsidy or a large labor concession to make it happen.

    Ask the people of Flint, Michigan if GM won’t pull the plug. They can and will.

  2. On the other hand, how are factories in environmentally responsible countries supposed to compete against those in the don’t-give-a-damn, we’ll-put-you-out-of-business, slave labor countries? I, for one, think our government should step to the plate and require proof of equivalent low factory emissions and competitive wages/benefits, or impose import tarrifs to create a level playing field.
    Just my 2 cents worth.

  3. I can honestly say that at least 90% of the employees dont agree with the union on this thing. SAAB made the workers start 1 hour early on tuesday this week and last week to compensate for the production loss. Most people I saw at the information meeting as the union called look bored and weren’t listening at all. The night shift had to stand in rain for a full hour listening to the unions political message which only a handfull actually cared about… most were just glad when it was over so that they could go back inside and start working…

  4. Ted: I agree with you on the ‘fair practices’ thing — a car made in China isn’t the same as one made in Sweden simply because the one in Sweden is more humane. I’ll give you that. Unfortunately, we’re talking about moving manufacturing to Germany, Portugal or the like. Theoretically, they play by similar environmental rules and don’t employ slave labor. Again, I think that the Swedes are a little out-of-balance when the economics are considered.

    I agree that our government and the average consumer are blind to these differences, or at least they pretend to be so. Unfortunate, that’s for sure.

    Generally I’m against tarrifs because they simply band-aid the problem rather than fixing it. At what price do you set environmental responsibility? Can the Chinese kill their own rivers and sicken their own population for a few hundred bucks per car? Is that OK? Not in my book. It makes the ledger balance, but nothing else changes.

    The Kyoto Accord was like that — the US had to invest heavily in technology to reduce emissions, but Japan, China, Indonesia, etc. had to do almost nothing. That’s why we walked. And we should have. It simply made the already slanted playing field even steeper.

    Again, back to Trollhattan: If that is their niche: “Green Manufacturing”, then get the message out! Some people will buy that if it is proven to them.

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