Vehicle industry - MAN-Steyr works council for "social plan with double voluntariness"

Negotiations on the social plan for the location at issue will start on Monday at the MAN plant in Steyr. Works councilor Helmut Emler expects “target-oriented” discussions and no mere presentation of the plan by the company, he made clear. He wants to talk about "a redundancy plan with double voluntary nature", as it applies at MAN in Germany.

By this, the employee representative means that, on the one hand, employees should only leave the factory on their own initiative. On the other hand, the closure of the plant should not be associated with the social plan. The group should make a cost-benefit calculation for any staff reductions achieved in this way.

In the “worst case” a closure would cost the group between 1,1 and 1,4 billion euros, Emler referred to an expertise of the Linz civil law expert and rector of the Johannes Kepler University (JKU), Meinhard Lukas. For Steyr there is not only a site security contract, but also the company's waiver of termination. In the event of a closure, termination benefits would be due by 2030, says Lukas. According to the works council, the savings of 80 million euros mentioned by MAN by relocating production from Steyr to Poland would only pay off in 15 years, says Emler.

Does MAN have to repay subsidies?

A closure could also have financial consequences with regard to subsidies provided for MAN. The Austrian research promotion company FFG has invested a total of 2017 million euros in public funds in projects with MAN since 2,4. In principle, there is the possibility of reclaiming subsidies from companies. According to the clause of their funding agreements, research funds can be reclaimed up to three years after the completion of a project due to operational closures, said FFG managing director Klaus Pseiner in the Ö1 lunch journal on Friday.

Specifically, the issue is around 300.000 euros from FFG funds for research into new types of hydrogen drives for MAN trucks. This project is about to be completed. Should the plant in Steyr actually be closed in 2023, one should check reclaims "very carefully", announced Pseiner. On the other hand, FFG is unlikely to be able to get back the lion's share of the investment since 2017 from the commercial vehicle manufacturer. The major project on battery-powered trucks ended in 2019 and is therefore probably outside the three-year deadline.

In the run-up to the negotiation on Monday, the MAN workforce representatives, the Steyr Mayor Gerald Hackl and his Vice Markus Vogl (both SPÖ) met with Governor Thomas Stelzer and Economic Councilor Markus Achleitner (all two ÖVP) on Friday. It was once again emphasized that “now is the time that potential other interested parties also put clear concepts on the table,” according to a broadcast from the country. According to Emler, "countless people call every day who want to buy the work".

“If everyone wants to,” says Gerald Ganzger, “very realistic” that there is a future for the MAN plant in Steyr. By “all”, the spokesman for the Green Mobility Consortium around the Linz entrepreneur Karl Egger (KeKelit) means his investor group, the corporate headquarters of the commercial vehicle manufacturer in Munich and former Magna boss Siegfried Wolf.

Tripartite location as a discussion model

Ganzger sees a tripartite division of the Steyr location as a discussion model. MAN could continue to operate the paint shop, Wolf could produce trucks there - as provided for in his takeover plan - and the Egger Group could build the Green Mobility Center. “The factory premises are big enough,” said the spokesman. You are practically offering yourself as a “problem solver” and waiting for an invitation from MAN to hold talks. Such a bundling of interests is one way of thinking. If there is a desire for discussion, the consortium will send a well-known spokesman - without Ganzger naming his name - to the round table. If the Green Mobility Center at the MAN location in Steyr doesn't work out, the consortium will look for a new location, he says. More concrete was not to be found out. (apa)