BERLIN -- Without German co-management rights and the board-level influence of employee representatives, Opel would have slid into bankruptcy and likely would have disappeared from the market, the automaker's works council chief said.
Klaus Franz, who is deputy chairman of Opel's supervisory board, said that employee representatives didn't just fight to maintain jobs and job security after Opel parent General Motors Co. decided not to sell the automaker and sister UK brand Vauxhall to a consortium lead by parts supplier Magna International Inc.
Works council members championed upcoming new products such as the Junior minicar and a new Opel convertible. They also campaigned for a distribution of European capacity that made sense economically because production must take place where vehicles are sold, Franz told the Automobilwoche Congress in Berlin earlier this month.
Franz leads 10 employee representatives on Opel's 20-member supervisory board. He said that German co-management causes entrepreneurial thinking to penetrate into the work force, leading to a better understanding of why unpopular decisions such as cutbacks need to be made.
The executive said he found that employee representatives are often better at managing a crisis because they are rooted within the work force and they “enjoy a high measure of trust and embody continuity and sustainability.”
Franz had harsh words for the previous GM leadership: “That gang at General Motors seriously hurt the Opel brand and its image.”
He criticized Opel's former management because it didn't take quick enough action as the crisis hit Europe in late 2008 and early 2009. The lack of action thrust employee representatives and Franz into the vacuum by necessity.
“There was no one at GM who wanted to take responsibility for Opel,” Franz said.