Angry workers at an Opel car plant in Germany stayed off the job on Monday, continuing their protest against plans by parent company General Motors for thousands of job cuts and defying calls from union leaders and the government to return to work.
 
The Associated Press said employee representatives at the plant in Bochum, where workers stopped production on Thursday, had demanded assurances that there will be no compulsory layoffs as a condition for Monday's early shift resuming work. Worker representative Franco Biagiotti said they were sticking to that demand.

"We will fight on and we will show the company our teeth," he said to applause from workers gathered at the factory gate. "We have nothing to lose and we are securing a good starting position for negotiations."

While the Bochum stoppage continued, employee representatives and management opened talks Monday at Opel headquarters in Ruesselsheim on the company's plans in Germany, AP said.

GM announced on Thursday that it likely would cut 12,000 jobs in Europe by the end of 2006 - mostly in Germany - under a cost-cutting program for its money-losing Opel, Vauxhall and Saab operations, AP noted.

The company reportedly said it had yet to determine which factories would be hit but management has singled out the aging Bochum plant, in the industrial Ruhr region, as having a "competitiveness issue."

In a statement to the regional Westdeutsche Allgemeine newspaper, GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster and Opel chief Hans Demant were quoted as saying that they see "a realistic chance" of making the Bochum plant competitive and wanted to "reach quickly the most socially acceptable solutions possible." They cautioned that strikes would only deepen the company's problems.

The Associated Press said that Biagiotti asserted that a lack of parts supplied from Bochum would lead to stoppages at GM plants elsewhere in Europe. However, GM Europe spokesman Ruediger Assion told the news agency that "our plants in the rest of Europe are working."

Late on Sunday, Economics and Labour Minister Wolfgang Clement reportedly told ARD television that the walkout "isn't helping."

"My urgent plea is that this not be continued," he said. Union leaders also have called for the workers to return to the job.

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