par Planet Labor
Almost three months after the disputed announcement, on January 15, 2008, of the closing of Nokia’s Bochum factory, the Finnish telecom giant and the works council (WC) defined, on April 8, the guidelines for a €200 million redundancy program, that is almost three times more than what had been initially planned. The factory, which employs about 2.300 people, will close on June 30.
During a joint press conference, representatives from the management and from the WC specified that the 2.300 employees would be discharged as early as May 30 and still be paid. Starting on July 1, notices of dismissal will be individually defined by the employees depending on the time they spent in the company. They will go from 1 to 7 months. Every employee dismissed will then work for a year in a transfer company (Transfergesellschaft) which will help them find a new job until the beginning of 2010. Out of the 200 million paid by Nokia, 15 million will help finance this company and 185 million will pay redundancy benefits. Arrangements for payment will be define in the next couple weeks the WC noted.
Looking for buyers. In addition, two departments of the factory are going to be sold: "Line Fit Automotive Business" and parts of the software development division. This should enable to keep 300 jobs. The management promised that it was still looking for buyers, with the support of the North-Rhine Westphalia Land (NRW) and of the city of Bochum. "Talks have started out pretty well. We will know more by the end of the year" said Ulrike Kleinebrahm, IG Metall representative in Bochum.
Outcome of a strong mobilization. Apparently satisfied, staff representatives saluted the agreement. At first, Nokia "only agreed to give us €70 million for compensation" reminded Gisela Achenbach, chair of the WC. Oliver Burkhardt, IG Metall’s leader in North-Rhine Westphalia, said that this was only made possible thanks to "employees’ strong mobilization and the public opinion’s solidarity". The announcement of the closing of the Bochum site and of its relocation in Romania indeed sparked of a huge wave of protests. The European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) denounced "the delay in informing the WC" and "an obvious violation of the directive on European works councils" Accusing Nokia of abandoning Bochum after getting several grants-in-aids, several important politicians indirectly called for a boycott of Nokia’s mobile phones. The WC and the IG Metall organized huge demonstrations. According to the IG Metall, this mobilization couldn’t save the factory, but it certainly forced the Finnish group to yield some ground.
Paying regional aids back. Now we must wait to see if the NRW Land is still going to ask Nokia to pay back €60 million (41 million plus 18 million of interests) of regional aid. Indeed, the Land judges that it supported financially 2.860 "sustainable jobs" on the Bochum site, which only employs 2.300 people. However, the company, which also employs agency workers and people for cleaning and safety services, maintains that it employs 3.200 people in Bochum. Judging that it is within its rights, it refused to react to the Land‘s ultimatum – a threat to sue if Nokia didn’t pay the €60 million by the end of March. "We are hoping to find a solution in a few days" declared Veli Sundbäck, chair of Nokia Deutschland’s surveillance council. "Our stand will depend on the outcome of the very constructive talks we are currently having with Nokia to create new jobs in Bochum" a spokesman from the NRW Land‘s Economy Department told Planet Labor.
Planet Labor, April 9, 2008, No. 080283 – www.planetlabor.com