Several trade union bodies are broadly welcoming the appointment of Steve Girsky as acting head of GM’s European operations, following today’s sudden departure of former Opel CEO, Karl-Friedrich Stracke.

Although their approval is laced with caveats, Opel’s Works Council and former GM Belgian union chiefs are hailing the move as a chance to move forward after Stracke’s often turbulent reign.

That cautious welcome may be linked to Girsky’s past as a representative of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union on the GM board and adviser to the labour union.

“I think [it] should have happened sooner – he [Stracke] was led by people,” former GM European Works Council vice president, Rudi Kennes, who was at forefront of the fight to save Opel’s ultimately doomed Antwerp plant in Belgium, told just-auto.

“To me it is quite clear something needs to happen to Opel and that he [Stracke] needs to step aside as he was not in the driver’s seat. Worse than it was it can’t be, but for the trade unions, Girsky has an open line to IG Metall [German union] and Wolfgang [Schäfer-Klug – European Works Council chairman] – it is a positive sign.”

Kennes – now staff member to the president of the socialist trade unions of Belgium (ABVV) – conceded Girsky could have some “difficult decisions” to make in the next few months as Opel wrestles with poor performance and chronic European over-capacity.

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For his part, Klug noted:  “It is imperative now, to continue the taken path of consolidating the company jointly with the employee representatives in mutual trust.”

Stracke’s abrupt departure could signal the start of more concerted action by Opel to address its capacity issues, that are equally bedevilling other European automakers struggling to keep their heads above water, as the Continent-wide crisis continues to swirl.

But even if it should fall to Girsky to implement the restructuring, he has at least qualified support from at least some labour bodies.

“Maybe he [Stracke] was the co-pilot – but not the pilot,” said Kennes.