GM Europe boss quits in disgust

General Motors Europe head Carl-Peter Forster is quitting in disgust at GM's decision to hang on to its European unit Opel/Vauxhall, an inside source said on Friday.

GM Europe boss quits in disgust
Photo: DPA

The source confirmed a report by German news weekly Der Spiegel, saying: “I expect a withdrawal by Forster within a week.”

GM executive vice president David Reilly would replace Forster, as GM seeks to soothe anger over this week’s decision to abandon a sale of Opel to Canadian group Magna and Russian partner Sberbank, the magazine said.

“I cannot comment,” a spokesman for General Motors Europe and Opel told AFP, adding: “If there are any personnel decisions we will make a statement on it.”

Forster was a keen supporter of Magna’s bid.

On Thursday, GM chief executive Frederick “Fritz” Hendersen told reporters in Detroit that he would pick a new management team for Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall within “days or weeks.”

GM has decided to restructure Opel/Vauxhall itself, with the elimination of at least 10,000 jobs and possibly the closure of German factories, a move that has sparked widespread anger in Germany.

Germany is home to about 25,000 Opel workers, roughly half of GM Europe’s total workforce, and the government had lobbied tirelessly for Magna’s bid in hopes of keeping all the German plants running.

Berlin had promised €4.5 billion in state aid to Magna, angering other European countries where the loss-making Opel also has workers because of fears they would bear the brunt of badly needed restructuring.

GM is now expected to seek aid from Germany and other European countries to carry out a €3-billion revamp. A German government spokesman said Friday he expected GM to provide details of its plans next week.

German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle has called GM’s behaviour “totally unacceptable” while North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Jürgen Rüttgers said the move revealed “the ugly face of turbo-capitalism.”

Hendersen acknowledged that “we have some fence-mending and repair that needs to be done.”

Der Spiegel said that Reilly, who is British, brought with him Asian experience with GM’s Chevrolet brand, which has increased sales in Europe as Opel has lost market share, calling the mooted nomination “a new provocation for Opel.”

Reilly is considered a specialist in restructuring, and could make life difficult for workers at European plants, the magazine added.

Reilly, who has been based in Shanghai, also has experience at British Vauxhall plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port, two sites that welcomed the GM decision cautiously in hopes they might fare better than under Magna’s ownership.

Just before GM made its announcement on Tuesday, Forster still appeared to believe the deal with Magna would go through, while saying it might take longer than expected.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.