RUESSELSHEIM -- Job cuts at Opel will be less severe than expected, the automaker's union boss said.
"We will cut fewer jobs than planned," Klaus Franz, who is also an Opel supervisory board member, told Automotive News Europe without providing in an exact number.
He gave three reasons for the reduction in planned cuts.
"First of all, we are keeping much of our component manufacturing in-house such as the F40 transmission in Ruesselsheim, which we are also producing third parties. Second, demand is humming along for the Astra and Insignia, which is why we added a third shift in Ruesselsheim, which secures more than 4,000 jobs in Ruesselsheim manufacturing. Third, we have to replace the large 1952 to 1954 age group, which is heading into pre-retirement part-time work."
Opel also is adding more workers.
"As in 2010, we will hire about 400 engineers this year. In addition, we have an additional 750 temporary workers in the development center," Franz said. "This year, we are establishing 400 jobs for a third shift in production at Ruesselsheim. We are offering them to employees from Bochum and are retroactively taking all trainees as of 2003. This is to partly offset departures due to pre-retirement part-time work in the development center."
Opel's main plant in Ruesselsheim will start the third shift of production in September to keep up with Astra demand. It is the first time since 2003 that the plant has increased output to three shifts.
"We are preparing the production launch of the five-door Astra, which will come off the line in Ruesselsheim for the first time," Franz said. "In 2012, we will manufacture up to 50 percent of the five-door's volume, in other words 80,000 to 90,000 units.
"That's the reason we are moving strongly toward full capacity in a three-shift operation - with an expected production volume of 220,000 to 230,000 units."
The plant's capacity is 272,000 units in three shifts.
The other half of the five-door Astra's volume will be make in Gliwice, Poland, and Ellesmere Port, England, which also makes the three-door Astra, the Astra GTC and Astra notchback.
The Astra station wagon, which is sold as the Sports Tourer, is made exclusively in England.
"In all, we expect an Astra production volume of 340,000 units in 2012," Franz told Automotive News Europe. In a new labor arrangement, Opel's temporary workers are going to get an increase in salary. Said Franz: "Our motto is: The same pay for the same work. That's the reason our temporary workers in Germany are getting a pay raise of 25 percent to 30 percent starting this month."