For the third time, Continental is threatening to end one of its two plants in Karben in the Wetterau. Employees struggle to maintain composure, but are also combative.
Slavica Ber fights back tears. The fifty-two-year-old has been working for the automotive supplier Continental Automotive in Karben for 20 years. “Help us,” she calls in front of the factory gate, where cameramen and journalists are waiting. Around 300 employees had previously attended a works meeting on a forecourt of the plant to discuss the Group’s decision to close the site in the next four years. The plant produces components for air conditioning systems, speedometers and driver assistance systems.
Almost 1,100 men and women are employed there, including 200 temporary workers. Many had expected an austerity program – Conti recorded an EBIT loss of almost 400 million euros in the first half of the year – but not the extent. “There is absolutely no interest in maintaining German locations,” believes the Karben works council chairman Frank Grommeck. The group wants to take the opportunity to cut jobs and relocate them to Eastern Europe.
It is the third time that the work is up for grabs. Most recently, the employees had accepted unpaid overtime of up to three hours a week for years in order to maintain the location. The union IG Metall calculates that the group would have saved 52 million euros as a result. “We gave them our money first, and now they are taking our work,” accuses the Ber.
But the workforce is combative. “We stay here, we stay here,” shout employees. The union promises to make a “real rabatz” to draw attention to the situation in Karben. The first campaigns should begin next week.