Now the gold bear has also made it into the Bundestag – but for a not very pleasant reason. On Thursday, at the request of the Left parliamentary group, the members of parliament discussed the threatened closure of the Haribo plant in Wilkau-Haßlau, the confectionery manufacturer’s only plant in the east. Around 150 jobs are at stake in Saschsen.
Accordingly, there are four interested parties to take over production in Wilkau-Haßlau, said Carsten Körber, CDU member of the responsible district of Zwickau. He presented these together with the Saxon Prime Minister, Michael Kretschmer, and the Mayor of Wilkau-Haßlau, Stefan Feustel (both CDU) Haribo. Initial discussions with Haribo are already underway, said Körber. Haribo confirmed this to NewsABC.net: “We seriously examine all serious inquiries. There have already been initial discussions. “
But even before that, there had already been serious intentions to buy. As NewsABC.net has now exclusively learned, Haribo has already turned down an official offer from the Swiss restructuring company Gorlink AG, in which all employees would have been taken on. “On December 8th, we made Haribo an offer to take over the plant with a few conditions,” says Stephan Oberacher, member of the Gorlink AG board of directors.
The conditions were, on the one hand, the takeover of the entire plant, including all 150 employees, and an order to manufacture Haribo products as a contract manufacturer for two years. “We would have paid the workforce according to the tariff and assumed all employee rights. In a newly founded company, new confectionery products would then have been developed parallel to production as a contract manufacturer for Haribo, which they would then have liked to market together with Haribo, or as a trademark to European trading partners, ”says Oberacher. According to the restructuring expert, the works council and the food-gourmet-restaurants union were behind the takeover offer from Gorlink AG. At the request of NewsABC.net, Haribo said it would not publicly comment on such conversations.
Employment guarantee until March
Gorlink AG is a company specializing in restructuring and mostly deals with insolvent companies. “This is completely different in the case of Haribo Wilkau, the plant is operating profitably, which is why I made the takeover offer,” said Oberacher. According to the Federal Gazette, the plant has a turnover of around ten million euros and a profit of two million euros. Members of the Bundestag on the left had therefore accused the confectionery company of “skimming off profits from the east to the west”. According to Haribo, the plant is too far away from the company’s headquarters in Grafschaft and the structure of the company is not suitable for future investments in the technology.
After days of negotiations with the company, the works council and the food-gourmet-restaurants union (NGG) were able to reach an agreement on a social and interest plan for the employees in Wilkau-Haßlau. According to NGG’s chief negotiator, Thomas Lißner, layoffs could be prevented until the end of the year. The Haribo employees receive a job guarantee for three more months until at least the end of March 2021. At the same time, he and the employees protested and fought for the continuation of the plant. This hope is now getting weaker and weaker, because Haribo is not abandoning his closure plans despite massive external pressure.
Haribo is unlikely to sell to competitors
The core problem of Haribo is that the company does not want any new competitor in the fruit gum market, it is said from all sides. In the Bundestag debate, the left-wing MP Claudia Zimmermann also criticized Haribo’s “delaying tactic”, in which the company concealed from the public that the company did not want to sell the plant to a competitor. NewsABC.net previously reported that, according to industry circles, the competitor Trolli had expressed interest in the purchase and was in talks with Haribo. Trolli did not want to comment on this. But it is more than unlikely that a deal will come about here.
Because Haribo is now looking for a buyer who only takes over the site and the hall and produces something completely different there or uses the area only as a warehouse, say Oberacher and other people familiar with the matter. The machines in the plant could in principle also be used for other goods than just fruit gums, according to the employees from the production in Wilkau. According to industry circles, winding up the plant seems to be the preferred solution for the confectionery manufacturer.
For the employees from production there is only one thing left, according to Oberacher: “Use the competence and the good name that they have acquired in the Haribo factory and apply to the other players on the market.”