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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

GM agrees deal with unions to close Opel plant in Belgium

Compensation package removes key hurdle in Opel/Vauxhall revamp
General Motors Co.'s Opel/Vauxhall unit has agreed a deal with unions to close a plant in Antwerp, Belgium.

GM had announced in January that it would close the 120,000-unit capacity plant as part of a restructuring to reduce European capacity by a fifth to help return Opel to profitability within two years.

Opel unions, which had opposed the closure, on Sunday agreed a compensation package for the 2,560 Antwerp workers, a plant spokeswoman told the German press agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Workers will vote on Tuesday whether to accept the deal, which offers workers up to 144,000 euros ($193,000) in compensation for losing their jobs.

GM will still look for an outside investor to take over the plant and continue building the Astra three-door hatchback and Astra convertible. If no investor is found by September 30, the factory will close by the end of the year.

Klaus, Franz, Opel's top union leader, told the press agency that an important roadblock hindering labor's acceptance of GM's European restructuring will be removed if Antwerp workers vote to accept the deal.

GM plans to cut 8,300 of Opel/Vauxhall's 48,000 workforce and is seeking up to 2 billion in loan guarantees from five European governments toward its turnaround plan for Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall.

The British government has already pledged 300 million. Germany, where Opel and most of its workers are based, is being asked for the largest amount at 1.3 billion euros and has still to make a decision on whether to lend aid.

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