Opel/Vauxhall has confirmed today (21 May) the loss of around 8,000 jobs across its European sites as it launched moves designed to return the company to profitability.

The widely-anticipated job cuts are in addition to around EUR265m (US$333m) in annual labour cost savings with the lion’s share of that figure – EUR176m – coming from Opel’s largest manufacturing sites in Germany.

The automaker also said Opel would convert into a German stock corporation (AG or limited company) “as soon as the statutory requirements can be completed.”

Union leaders at the European Employee Forum (EEF) – Opel’s senior labour works council – are now considering the offer from GM’s European division with a decision expected within a matter of days.

Opel also said it was “finalising” plans for a new investor at its Belgian plant in Antwerp which is scheduled for closure although no further details were available on the identity of any new owner.

“We have reached a tentative European-wide agreement with the EEF – this is a very important step,” said Opel CEO Nick Reilly at company headquarters in Russelsheim.

“Employee representatives are discussing it and we expect to have this ratified in the next few days.”

The proposed deal comes as the German government continues to debate a request of up to EUR1.5bn in loan guarantees for the restructuring plan, although any decision from a key meeting of a financial steering committee next week is thought to depend on Opel being able to announce with reasonable certainty its plans today.

GM is believed to be contributing EUR1.9bn to the rescue plan with European countries where Opel factories are located asked for up to EUR1.8bn in loan guarantees.

Reilly also said a new convertible “below the Corsa” would be manufactured as well as a “new combo van,” but did not elaborate.

The Opel CEO added the EUR265m labour cost savings would be “specifically linked” to the funding of projects so employees could see where the money was being spent.

A new profit sharing scheme will be introduced at an unspecified date once the capacity and job reductions have been completed which Reilly insisted would mean avoiding any “forced redundancies”.