July 18 -- DaimlerChrysler's management is ready to give up some of its pay if employees make concessions in the automaker's drive to cut $620 million in costs, a company spokesman said Sunday.
DaimlerChrysler workers have staged walkouts and rallies in recent days, halting production of some Mercedes-Benz cars as recently as Saturday to protest company demands to work more for the same pay. More walkouts are reportedly planned next week.
"I can confirm that the board is willing to make a contribution if there is an overall agreement," DaimlerChrysler spokesman Thomas Froehlich said Sunday.
He refused to comment in detail on a Bild am Sonntag newspaper report that chief executive Juergen Schrempp and other top managers were willing to relinquish 10 percent of their salaries if workers agree to a deal. The report cited no sources.
Schrempp told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper he believes a deal is possible soon.
"I am confident that we will have a solution shortly," he was quoted as saying. "We are in constructive negotiations."
DaimlerChrysler says labor costs at its plant in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart are higher than at another German factory in Bremen. The company has threatened to move production of future Mercedes-Benz C-class model cars to Bremen and South Africa unless it gets $620 million in annual savings at Sindelfingen.
DaimlerChrysler wants to cut extra pay for evening and night shifts as well as the five minutes of paid break time that workers accumulate every hour under the local contract, won in a 1973 strike.
The top employee representative at DaimlerChrysler suggested any deal would have to involve a long-term commitment by management to lower its salaries.
"If the board is merely offering not to increase its income for one year, that's just ridiculous in my view," Erich Klemm was quoted in Bild am Sonntag.
Leaders of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's governing Social Democratic party are also lashing out at German companies, saying some are unfairly squeezing workers.
"We have to ensure that we don't end up with blind, total capitalism," party head Franz Muentefering said in Berliner Zeitung's weekend edition. Some companies are trying to "gag workers" and "turn back the wheel by 100 years," he said.