Anti-Nokia opinions gathering momentum in Germany
Public exhorted to avoid buying Nokia handsets in the wake of Bochum closure decision
Mobile phone manufacturer Nokia is running into heavy weather in Germany, as a veritable national movement is beginning to rise against the decision earlier this week to close the Nokia handset assembly plant in Bochum on the Ruhr.
An anti-Nokia campaign is being put together with considerable alacrity.
The decision to shut down the plant and move production to Romania threatens directly to put more than 2,000 people out of work, with a further two thousand jobs in jeopardy as an indirect result of the closure.
On Wednesday, Social Democrats in Nordrhein-Westfalen had already got an online capaign up and running under the slogan "No Nokia, so nicht!"
By Thursday afternoon the site had received more than a thousand names and comments, often expressing the view that this was a last straw and the writer would no longer be buying Nokia products, as a protest against the maximisation of the company’s profits.
Polticians are also demanding action. According to the Social Democrat group within the German Parliament, Nokia "needs to feel the heat and realise that its behaviour is unacceptable".
The Germans have been particularly aggrieved and astonished at the company’s actions, given that the Bochum facility has not been operating at a loss.
"I could understand the decision if we had been running on minus", said Gabriele Presinger, a worker at the handset plant, speaking on Thursday evening.
On Thursday dozens of Nokia employees gathered at the factory gates in the evening to protest the move.
There were mutterings about betrayal, since only at the end of last year the employer had provided the staff with incentive bonuses for a job well done, despite the fact that - at least in the view of the workers - the decision to shut down the factory and move production elsewhere had already been made by this stage.
Many angry members of staff also pointed to the heavy overtime routines that were in effect either side of the New Year, seeing this as a means for the employer to compensate for possible downtime from protest strikes brought on by the decision to shut the assembly plant.
The German federal government and the government of Nordrhein-Westfalen have jointly demanded that the Nokia management come to the negotiating table to discuss alternatives to the closure of the Bochum facility.
Nokia’s SVP, Communications Arja Suominen reported to the Associated Press news agency on Thursday that the company is ready for discussions, but the decision itself is not for changing.
The plan to cease production in Bochum was based on the facts and had been agreed after "very careful consideration", said Suominen.
Workers in Bochum and union activists are planning a major demonstration in support of their case for next Tuesday.
Earlier this week, Veli Sundbäck, Executive Vice President of Nokia and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Nokia GmbH had stated that owing to market changes and increasing requirements for cost-effectiveness, the production of mobile devices in Germany is no longer feasible for Nokia.
A further problem for the manufacturer, aside from higher personnel costs than would be found in Romania, is that subcontractors, whose proximity is important for a Nokia factory, have themselves been reluctant to come to Germany because of the high costs.
Previously in HS International Edition:
German politicians angered by Nokia factory closure (17.1.2008)
Nokia shutting down plant in Germany, moving manufacture to Romania (16.1.2008)