Germans outraged over Nokia cell phone plant shutdown

Upset over the loss of 2,300 jobs in Germany, 15,000 local residents have staged a street demonstration over Nokia's plans to shut down a factory and move production to budget-wise Romania. A boycott is possible, and government leaders claim Finnish-based Nokia should now give back the considerable amount of subsidy money it's gotten from Germany.

Angered over Nokia's plans to close a cell phone manufacturing plant in Germany, 15,000 local residents have marched through the streets, with some politicians calling for a boycott of Nokia products and demanding reimbursement of a big chunk of more than 80 million euros ($120 million) in subsidies paid by Germany to Nokia over the past 20 years.

Justifying its action on the grounds of lower wage costs, Finnish-based Nokia -- the world's largest mobile phone maker -- is moving production from the city of Bochum in the Ruhr region of Germany to two towns in Romania: Cluj and Jucu.

According to accounts in the German press, some major government officials have implied that Nokia might now be getting a subsidy from the European Union to pull up stakes and go to Romania.

State premier Jurgen Ruttgers has accused Nokia of behaving "like a subsidy locust."

Among all countries belonging to the EU, Germany reportedly contributes the most funds.

In response, EU Commissioner Gunter Verheugen has declared that subsidies should no longer be paid to attract companies to a region.

Meanwhile, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has hinted that the EU might be willing to provide financial assistance to those impacted by the job losses.

Kurt Beck, head of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), has suggested rather strongly that a Nokia boycott might be in order.

"We can all get together [and] make it clear that we're not going to let ourselves be misled. Germany has 82 million consumers," said Beck, who also told a German newspaper that he's launching a personal boycott by not using his Nokia cell phone any more.

During a protest march in Bochum this week, a labor union leader who heads up a union called IG Metall told demonstrators that Nokia managers should reverse their decision "if they have a shred of decency."

But Nokia officials have reportedly countered that labor costs are 10 times higher in Germany than Romania.

German workers and leaders are particularly incensed that Nokia is abandoning its plant in Germany at a time when the company is focusing increasingly on sales to high-growth emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Nokia officials reportedly met on Monday with representatives of the Bochum plant and German unions, with further talks planned.

Nokia spokespersons were not immediately available for comment.

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