Opel unions are demanding GM opens

talks with a potential Chinese investor in a bid to save 1,200 jobs at its Antwerp plant.

Widespread rumours have pinpointed Chinese automaker Geely as the bidder for the Astra-producing plant, but both the manufacturer and labour bodies have distanced themselves from that source.

A pan-European union conference call is scheduled for later this afternoon (8 October), after which it should be known if the mystery Chinese investor will enter negotiations for the Belgian plant.

“We will know whether [or not] we will re-open talks with the Chinese partners yes or no,” European Works Council vice chairman Rudi Kennes told just-auto from Belgium. “That is our demand – that GM opens the talks.”

Kennes said a works council delegation held talks with Opel CEO Nick Reilly yesterday (7 October) in a bid to avoid the factory being closed on 31 December this year unless a buyer can be found.

“We hope Mr Reilly comes to his senses and sees the benefits – in trying to sell the plant,” he said.

Kennes said he knew the identity of the Chinese investor but was unable to disclose any further details apart from noting: “It is not Geely.”

He declared himself “always optimistic” in putting forward “logical arguments” to GM, which has not added to its earlier statement, effectively ending the search for an industrial partner.

Kennes added Reilly could “save himself a lot of money and in fact make a lot of money” should the Chinese investor be given the opportunity to put itself forward. However, GM has previously dismissed a commercial bid it received as lacking a detailed enough business plan.

The Flemish government – in whose territory the Antwerp site lies – gave assurances this week it would provide loan guarantees should an investor come forward – a move Kennes welcomed.

“The Flemish government will do everything it can or in its power within European legislation,” said Kennes.

Calls to GM did not elicit any further information.