From Daimler to Tesla: the boss said goodbye to colleagues with a text message

Employees of the Daimler plant in Berlin-Marienfelde protest against possible job cuts.

Philip Kaleta

“We’re pissed off!” Shouts Patric Succo to hundreds of Daimler employees in Berlin-Marienfelde. Succo is the chairman of the shop stewards at the car manufacturer’s plant. The employees have gathered in front of the plant and are demonstrating. Some hold up signs that read “Ola, Shame on you!” Ola Källenius is the CEO of Daimler. Most of the posters, however, say that no jobs should be cut. The employees are angry, they worry about possible layoffs. They have plenty of reason to do so.

In the past few weeks, more and more information leaked out from the group that jobs are to be drastically cut at the location in Berlin, which today is primarily geared towards combustion engines. In the worst case, IG Metall assumes that of the 2,500 employees on site, only 500 could remain.

On Wednesday, the workforce finally found out through the media that the plant manager Rene Reif had now resigned. A few weeks ago he is said to have militantly announced at a works meeting that he would defend himself against the downsizing, the employees report. Reif is switching to US competitor Tesla, who is building a new Gigafactory a few dozen kilometers away in Grünheide, Brandenburg, and is desperately looking for staff. Above all, Tesla is challenging the premium manufacturer with the star from Stuttgart with its electric cars. Only around 50 kilometers from Marienfelde.

The workforce is ready for fundamental changes

Numerous employees told that they know the internal combustion engine has an expiry date. They are ready for further training and retraining, but certainly not for layoffs. “When I signed my employment contract here, I thought it would last until I retire,” says Succo. “We employees generate millions and billions in profits for Daimler. And the downsizing should be the thanks for that? We are not personnel numbers or cost centers, we are people, ”adds the Daimler employee.

The union IG-Metall also supports the employees. Sören Lieske, union secretary at IG-Metal, said in an interview with “The workforce is ready and open to ecological change. Sure, the industry is developing in the direction of e-mobility. And the workforce is ready to relearn these technologies. This plant in Marienfelde can be converted with a few manual tricks and a little bit of leisure so that it can be produced for electric cars. “Only the decision-makers at Daimler lack the right will, according to Lieske.

He adds: “It is embarrassing for Daimler to want to shorten this plant while its competitor Tesla is showing off at the gates of Berlin. And then the plant manager also turns into exactly this competitor. “

Employee protest in front of the Daimler plant in Berlin.

Employee protest in front of the Daimler plant in Berlin.

Several employees confirmed to that Reif had only informed the company via SMS that he was leaving. In the same message, he is said to have also said goodbye.

According to Jan Otto, this is a bad habit to say goodbye to. Otto is the first authorized representative of IG Metall in Berlin.

For Otto, however, it is much more important that the jobs in Marienfelde are preserved and converted. The IG Metall man openly says that he doesn’t really care whether the employees at the site are still working on an engine or on a drive train for an electric car. “They just have to relearn and get used to it after many years. The priority is that they keep their job and that it is tariff, ”says Otto.

Above all, it is nonsense that jobs would have to be lost as a result of the change to e-mobility and the resulting conversion of factories. “I experienced that in Kamenz. At first it was said, oh god, e-mobility is coming. Now the factory is bursting at the seams, ”says Otto. Today there is a Mercedes battery factory in Kamenz. Otto used to be responsible for the region and the factory.

“I believe that if we map large parts of the battery value chain here on site, such as the second life cycle and battery recycling, we will not have to cut many jobs at all,” says Otto. He is also talking to the Berlin Senate, Mayor Michael Müller and the Senator for Economics Ramona Pop about a concept for an innovation and concept cluster. “Above all, Daimler can and must draw from Berlin’s innovative strength in order to lead the plant into the future,” says Otto.


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