GERMANY: Opel workers end strike
Workers at a General Motors plant in Germany voted on Wednesday to end their nearly week-long walkout in protest at thousands of threatened job cuts, a union official said, abandoning a strike that has forced two other factories to a halt.
"We have decided to go back," Wolfgang Nettelstroth, a spokesman for the IG Metall industrial union, told the Associated Press (AP) after a meeting of the work force at the Adam Opel AG plant in Bochum. The factory's chief employee representative, Dieter Hahn, said more than two-thirds of the employees voted to resume production.
AP noted that the workers in Bochum halted production last Thursday after parent company General Motors announced plans to slash 12,000 jobs in Europe by the end of 2006, mostly in Germany. Fearing that their aging plant would be the worst hit, they demanded assurances that no one will be fired.
Union and government leaders had called repeatedly for the Bochum workers to end their strike.
The Bochum plant, in the Ruhr Valley industrial region in western Germany, turns out body panels, engines, transmissions and exhaust systems, as well as Astra cars and Zafira minivans, AP said.
On Tuesday, a lack of parts from the factory forced Opel to stop production in Ruesselsheim, Germany and in Antwerp, Belgium.
A GM spokesman in Britain, David Crundwell, told AP production likely would be suspended starting Wednesday afternoon at another factory, in Ellesmere Port, in northern England.
AP noted that GM says it must reduce overhead at its money-losing European operations - Opel, Saab and Vauxhall - to cope with sluggish consumer demand and increased competition from Japanese and other European carmakers. The restructuring plan is meant to produce annual cost savings of €500 million ($US620 million).
In a conciliatory sign on Tuesday, Opel reportedly said it had agreed with employee delegates to try to ensure the survival of its main plants in Germany - including Bochum - beyond 2010, while finding "socially acceptable" ways of cutting back their work force.
"We now have an assurance that there will be negotiations -- it's a good start and we should use it," Bochum worker Sven Meier told the Associated Press before Wednesday's decision.