LONDON Workers at the Geldern plant of insolvent PCB maker Ruwel are being urged to be realistic about the size of the labour force if the operation is to have a future into next year.
The insolvency administrator Horst Piepenburg announced that investment group BlueBay is willing to continue backing the plant, but only under certain conditions, and in particular only if 200 of the 420 workers at the facility drop their cases against "unfair dismissal".
The moves come after Bernd Zevens, the Kleve entrepreneur and former owner of Ruwel, had submitted an offer to take over the group's other plant, in Pfullingen, as of 1st September 2009.
The two plants in Geldern and Pfullingen complement each other in terms of the job lot sizes on offer.
Their product ranges scarcely overlap. As some customers have to date been able to be served by way of dividing labour between the two plants, the idea is for both plants to continue cooperating in the future.
Piepenburg said BlueBay has now signalled its willingness, possibly with an Asian partner, to take on responsibility for about 220 jobs in a new company as a future majority shareholder in Geldern.
"You have to realize that there is simply not enough work for 420 employees in Geldern. How should future investors manage to pay them?" queried Piepenburg.
And he stressed the insolvent PCB producer is also not in a position to make redundancy payments.
Whether this will in fact happen will ultimately depend on a number of conditions being fulfilled.
"One crucial point for the potential investor will be the question of legal certainty in relation to the number and make-up of future employment contracts. The possibly future new owners are demanding on the one hand that the approximately 200 pending actions against ‘unfair dismissal’ be clarified first of all," said Piepenburg.
The insolvency administrator is in a position to continue operating the Geldern plant on his own until the end of the year. "But that's the end then", Piepenburg stressed.
There are still no other interested parties for Ruwel, he added, so time is running short. "The employees left at the plant after half the workforce had been dismissed at the end of April have fought unbelievably to save the company", said Piepenburg.
But he added that the workforce "has to give a new company a chance to stay alive."
The sales projections will not bear any more personnel costs, Piepenburg warned. "We now need to talk quickly and come up with solutions, otherwise it
will soon be too late for everybody!"
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