"This is hard to justify to our people," work council chief Uwe Werner declared. Speaking in Thursday's edition of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, Werner said the board of Mercedes-makers Daimler was forcing savings on its German workers, and moving part of its production overseas, while at the same time spending millions on Formula One. "This is not understandable for many colleagues," Werner said.
Having retired in 2006, Schumacher, who turns 41 on January 3, will reportedly be paid €7 million to be on the grid when the new season starts with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14.
The Daimler board justified the sensational contract with Schumacher, signed Tuesday, as an investment in the future, but Werner is not convinced that it will help the image and marketing of the Mercedes brand.
"The employees would have understood better if Mercedes had withdrawn from the expensive Formula One business," he said.
Earlier this month, Daimler decided after other cost-cutting measures to move some of its production of C-class cars from Germany to the US city Tuscaloosa. It is unclear whether the move will lead to job cuts here.
Meanwhile an automobile industry expert said he doubted the Schumacher deal would pay off for Mercedes.
"Mercedes in particular is a company for which sportiness is not a selling point but rather security and quality," Ferdinand Dudenhöffer of the University of Duisburg-Essen in western Germany told Bayerische Rundfunk public radio. "Why should a driver decide to buy a Mercedes because of Formula One?"
He said the cost of investing in F1 would have to be passed on to consumers.
"Every car will have to be sold for €200 to €300 more for Mercedes to finance Formula One," he said.
But Mercedes sport chief Norbert Haug dismissed the criticism.
"The whole engagement will sell a lot of cars and make a lot of people aware of the quality of the star," he told ZDF public television, referring to the company emblem.