Thousands of people took to the streets of Zaragoza, Spain, on Saturday to protest Opel plans to sack 1,700 workers at its Figuerelas factory on the outskirts of the city, a local union official told just-auto on Monday.

Opel's expected new owner, a Canadian-Russian consortium led by Magna International, wants to make the redundancies as part of plans to streamline the automaker after purchasing a 55% stake from General Motors. Magna has confirmed it will axe 10,500 Opel jobs across Europe.

The cuts will see 1,700 workers leave the factory, a key local employer which makes the the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva MPV and Corsa supermini, and reduce output by 320,000 vehicles a year, the union official said, adding that further demonstrations - and possibly strikes - were likely.

"If this is approved this will be the beginning of the end of the factory, which employs 8,000 people and accounts for 23% of jobs in [the province of] Aragon," he said.  "We are going to fight very hard to prevent this."

Spain's government is also backing the workers, saying it would intervene to ensure the factory's survival.

Ivan Castano