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Opel workers 'open' to possible takeover by Peugeot

Latest update : 17/02/2017

© AFP | At the end of 2015, Opel reported 35,600 employees, including some 18,250 in Germany

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) - 

Unions and employee representatives of German carmaker Opel said Friday they are ready to play a "constructive" role in negotiations over a possible takeover by French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Worker representatives "are ready to hold constructive talks in case of a sale of Opel/Vauxhall," the works council and powerful IG Metall metalworking union said in a joint statement.

But "our objective must be to seize the existing opportunities to safeguard employment and sites," said works council chairman Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug.

PSA, the parent company of France's Peugeot, Citroen and DS, has confirmed it is interested in taking over Opel, the German arm of US giant General Motors.

However, the plans have sparked fears in Germany that the potential new owner could cut German jobs that doubled up existing posts in France.

In their joint statement, the union and works called for "unequivocal recognition and implementation of existing agreements for all Opel/Vauxhall sites, in particular commitments on employment and investments".

Vauxhall is the brand used by Opel on its vehicles sold in Britain.

Workers' calls to protect positions in Germany were matched by the government in Berlin Friday.

Germany's federal and state governments "want to work closely together with the worker representatives and unions to maintain the sites, the jobs, the research centres and collective bargaining agreements," economy ministry senior official Matthias Machnig told business daily Handelsblatt.

PSA's interest in Opel appeared to catch both the German and French governments by surprise, with German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries on Tuesday labelling PSA and GM's lack of communication about the talks "unacceptable".

Despite their fears, the worker representatives say they "see opportunities arising from the creation of the second-biggest car manufacturer in Europe" after Germany's Volkswagen group.

Increased size "would allow us to influence the challenges arising from the transformation of the European automotive industry," they went on.

Founded in 1862, Opel, with its lightning-bolt emblem, has long been a familiar sight on German and European roads.

But in recent years, the firm has booked repeated losses, costing Detroit-based GM around $15 billion (14 billion euros) since 2000.

A sharp fall in the pound since Britain's vote to quit the EU last June sank Opel's hopes of getting back into the black in 2016, and it ended up reporting a loss of $257 million.

At the end of 2015, the firm reported 35,600 employees, including some 18,250 in Germany.

Opel has some 10 factories in Europe spread across six different countries.

© 2017 AFP