Tunisia seeks to ward off closure of German factory Leoni

‘We hope a solution will be found’

TUNIS - Tunisian Industry Minister Mohamed Lamine Chakhari is in talks with German company Leoni to ward off the closure of a plant in Tunisia that employs some 2,700 people, the ministry said Saturday.
Chakhari went late Friday to Mateur, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) northwest of Tunis, to call for "dialogue ... leading to solutions that take into consideration the future of the business," the ministry said in a communique.
"Consultations will continue. We hope a solution will be found," a ministry spokesman added.
The management of the group in Tunisia announced the closure of the unit, which produces automotive cable systems, on Friday, citing "anarchic sit-ins" and an "untenable situation" preventing the company from meeting its delivery deadlines.
The UTT union said Leoni had used the sit-ins as a "pretext" to proceed with the closure, which it charged had been decided several months earlier.
A Leoni spokesman said the decision was "definitive."
Leoni, which also manufactures wires and optical fibres, is based in Nuremberg, Germany.
More than 14,000 people work in its four plants in Tunisia, where it has been present since 1977.
The north African country has seen a spate of sit-ins and strikes since an uprising toppled strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.
Tunisia has an official unemployment rate of 19 percent and its economy shrank by 1.8 percent in 2011, dire economic facts that were hidden under the Ben Ali regime.
Leoni employs about 56,000 people in 34 countries.