Nokia announced Tuesday the closure of its German mobile-phone factory, bringing gloom to 2,000 employees and ending Germany's last vestige of wireless phone manufacturing.
The announcement follows the 2006 closure of BenQ, formerly Siemens, plants in Germany and last year's shutdown of a Motorola factory. The industry had its heyday in Germany in the 1990s, just after the sophisticated technology evolved.
Some components of the phones, such as the subscriber identity module (SIM) card which gives a mass-produced phone its unique number, were first made in Germany. But today, mobile phones can be more cheaply assembled in Asia or eastern Europe.
"It's like a stab in the back," said Tulay Aras, 34, a shocked worker at the plant in Bochum, western Germany. "My husband Timur doesn't even know yet: he's coming to work today on the afternoon shift."
Nokia, maker of four in every 10 mobile phones sold worldwide, is to shift much of the production capacity from Bochum to a new plant at Cluj, Romania after deciding labour costs are too high in Germany.
The German site employs 2,300 people, according to a Nokia statement in the Finnish capital Helsinki.
Most will go, but 280 in an automotive components section and the research labs are likely to keep their jobs. Those profitable departments would be taken over by new owners, Nokia spokeswoman Arja Suominen said.
The closure is a blow to the Ruhrgebiet, a metropolitan area that was the longtime centre of German coal mining and heavy industry. The blue-collar region is suffering from high unemployment as its dinosaur industries die out.
Suominen said the only Bochum units that could be saved were the laboratory and the Line Fit Automotive Business, which supplies car factories with wiring needed for motorists to use their phones hands-free.
"As a location, Bochum simply was not competitive internationally. Germany is a very expensive place for our manufacturing operations," Suominen said. The plant would close in the middle of this year.
Other plants taking over Bochum products would be at Komarom, Hungary, while very advanced products would in future be made by high skilled Nokia staff at Salo, Finland.
Prices of mobile phones have been coming down worldwide as the market in western countries becomes saturated and wireless operators demand cheaper models to feed roaring demand in emerging economy and developing nation markets. ( Dpa )