GM’s Bochum Plant Rejects Restructuring Agreement

Workers at General Motors Co.’s Bochum, Germany, assembly plant rejected a proposal to keep the Opel facility making vehicles through 2016, setting the stage for the factory to close by the end of next year.

More than 76 percent of the votes cast by workers at the factory rejected the reorganization agreement, the plant’s chapter of the IG Metall union said today.

GM is trying to stem losses in Europe, which have totaled $18 billion since 1999, by increasing revenue with 23 new Opel vehicles by 2016 and cutting costs, including Bochum’s shutdown, which would mark the first German auto factory to be closed since World War II.

While Bochum rejected the agreement, the rest of GM’s German factories have approved a wider measure and it will be implemented at those locations, where about 20,000 jobs will be saved and wages frozen, the company said today.

“The vote is clear,” said Knut Giesler, the regional head of IG Metall. “I see the results as a clear no-confidence vote for the management of Opel. Too many mistakes, too many false promises for eight years.”

GM responded that Zafira minivan production will stop at Bochum by the end of next year and there won’t be further contract negotiations.

“We very much regret that the employees in Bochum did not accept an attractive offer,” Manfred Gellrich, director of the Bochum plant, said in a statement. “A huge opportunity has now been missed.”

Deal Terms

GM’s European unit had agreed in February with national union leaders to continue production at the Bochum plant through 2016, and keep part of the facility open as a parts and logistics center, saving about 1,200 of the location’s more than 3,000 jobs. If workers didn’t approve the deal, GM had said it would stop production at Bochum after 2014.

“If it fails, it may cost us more in the near-term but it may help us in the intermediate term because car production will end early,” Steve Girsky, GM vice chairman and chairman of Opel supervisory board, said in an interview yesterday at the company’s Detroit headquarters about the vote.

GM fell 2 percent to $28.63 at the close in New York, the biggest one-day decline since Feb. 25. They have slid 0.7 percent this year compared with an 8.4 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.