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Ford to slash over 5,000 jobs in Germany

Ford on Friday said it planned to cut "more than 5,000" jobs in Germany as part of a major restructuring to boost profitability at the US car giant's European operations.

Ford to slash over 5,000 jobs in Germany
A worker assembling a Ford Fiesta at a plant in Cologne in May 2018. Photo: DPA

Ford on Friday said it planned to cut “more than 5,000” jobs in Germany as part of a major restructuring to boost profitability at the US car giant's European operations.

The group aims to carry out the jobs cull through voluntary redundancies and early retirement, a spokeswoman told AFP.

“This announcement is part of the Ford restructuring announced in January 
in Europe with the goal of returning to profitable business in Europe as soon as possible,” she said.

“The aim is to cut more than 5,000 jobs in the most socially responsible way possible,” the spokeswoman added, without detailing how the cuts would be  divided among Ford's operations in Cologne, Aachen and Saarlouis.

The announcement, which was shared with Ford Germany employees earlier on 
Friday, comes after the carmaker warned in January that “thousands” of jobs  would be cut as part of a revamp of its loss-making European division.

Ford employs some 53,000 people across Europe, around 24,000 of them in  Germany.

The overhaul comes at a time of widespread upheaval for global automakers as the industry pivots to the greener, smarter cars of the future and polluting diesel cars fall out of favour.

The industry is also grappling with the knock-on effects of US-lade trade tensions, Brexit uncertainty, and economic slowdowns in the key European and Chinese markets.

Ford, the second-biggest US automaker, plans to respond to the challenges with a global reorganisation, including a huge cost-cutting drive and partnership deals with rival carmakers.

The group, which booked a 2018 net profit of $3.7 billion, already announced last year that it would halt production of almost all sedans and small cars in the United States to save $11 billion. 

In the United Kingdom, Ford plans to axe 1,150 jobs, according to Britain's Unite union.

In France, the group plans to close a plant making gear boxes near Bordeaux, costing 800 jobs and drawing the ire of the French government.

In Russia, Ford said it would launch a strategic review of its joint venture Ford Sollers.

Like other carmakers who have teamed up to reduce costs in an increasingly competitive industry, Ford earlier this year announced an alliance with German giant Volkswagen to jointly develop commercial vans and pickups from 2022.

The two companies are also in talks about potentially cooperating on electric and self-driving cars, the latest example of rivals joining forces to save on the massive research and development costs needed for the switch to future technologies.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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