IG Metall calls on Bosch to reconsider exit

Bosch announced in March that it was exiting the crystalline photovoltaic business but indicated it would keep its thin film division, Solar CISTech.

German newspaper Märkische Allgemeine, however, reported on Monday that Bosch will either sell or close the unit, based in the state of Brandenburg, by the end of 2014.

The division’s 160 employees, backed by IG Metall, are now demanding a new collective agreement.

"We demand a recognition agreement. We expect our management to be willing to negotiate in the upcoming negotiations in June," said Works Council Chairman Bodo Paetzel in a statement released by IG Metall. The works council is also looking to insure the social security of the employees in case Bosch closes Solar CISTech, which is located in the town of Brandenburg an der Havel.

Collective bargaining talks for the Bosch employees in Brandenburg are set to start on June 13.

IG Metall’s goal is the recognition of the existing collective agreement for the employees of Bosch Solar Energy in the state of Thuringia, which covers not only wages but also employee classification.

Bosch CISTech employees currently earn less than the minimum wage of €8.50 an hour. According to the Märkische Allgemeine, 55% of the company’s employees are engineers, 35% laborers and 10% administrative staff.

In view of possible plans by the European Commission to impose punitive import duties of 47% on crystalline solar photovoltaic products from China, IG Metall is demanding that Bosch again review its announced withdrawal.

"The workforce has already moved forward with a reduction in production costs and the import duties could lead to module prices rising again," IG Metall’s Thuringian representative Wolfgang Lemb told the Thüringische Landeszeitung newspaper. Some 1,800 employees at the Bosch production plant in Arnstadt, Thuringia, are in danger of losing their jobs due to the company’s exit.

Thuringian state economics minister Matthias Machnig (SPD) also welcomed the possible import duties on Chinese products. "The support from Brussels for the German solar industry is urgently needed. It is high time that the political institutions use their leverage to protect European and thus German solar companies from unfair competition."

The decision on preliminary import duties, which the European Commission is expected to announce in early June, will also prove a vital decision for the future of the photovoltaic hub of Arnstadt. "The chances for a sale have thus increased," said Machnig.

Translated by Edgar Meza