Saab employees down tools

Saab workers in Sweden downed tools for several hours on Monday, demanding that parent company General Motors make a decision about the future of its European plants.

Saab has said it is planning a new, small Saab. The company’s CEO Jan-Åke Jonsson told TT that it is still planned for the factory in Trollhättan, near Gothenburg, to build the small car. It is intended for the new model to be phased in when the current models are taken out of production.

Jonsson also hopes that the factory will build the new Opel Astra, which will use the same platform. These models would secure the plants future after 2010. He added that relations with unions were good.

But union representatives expressed concern.

“We are worried that there are secret plans, and that that is the reason that the GM management don’t want to talk with us,” Paul Åkerlund, union spokesman in Trollhättan, told a meeting of 500 employees at the end of Monday morning’s shift.

Åkerlund was flanked by Mari-Ann Krantz, chairwoman of the Sif office workers union and Anders Tiderman of the IF Metall.

“It is very bad that they don’t want to talk with unions,” said Alf Holm, a worker at the factory, after the meeting.

He added that the climate at the company had become worse in the past year. Industrial action in the form of information meetings, strikes and overtime bans have been taking place at GM’s plants across Europe. A meeting will be held next week to decide how far unions have succeeded in persuading management to conduct a dialogue.

Mari-Ann Krantz said that she shared Åkerlund’s fear that GM has a secret agenda.

“Moreover, I do not believe that they are sitting there with a blank sheet of paper,” she said.

“All employees need to adapt – we are living in a changing world. The problem is how long time changes take,” said Anders Tiderman.