Following an all-employee meeting at Opel headquarters in Rüsselsheim today, Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly and works council chairman Klaus Franz said they were "united" in the goal of building a successful company again.

"One with stronger autonomy that will play an important role inside GM," added Reilly after the event which was attended by more than 9,000 employees.

He added that the restructuring ahead was a necessary step towards a profitable future.

"Naturally the topic of job reductions weighs heavily for every employee, and it is our goal to resolve this subject quickly and reach an agreement with worker representatives. The plan, however, goes far beyond capacity reduction and includes many elements necessary for sustainable growth: Our company has a vision for a dynamic product portfolio, future technologies and investment."

Reilly promised employees he would keep them informed about the restructuring and confirmed he planned to present a detailed plan by the middle of this month.

The threat of pay cuts and the planned closure of Opel's assembly plant in Antwerp, Belgium, is nonetheless likely to lead to protests by the company's 50,000-strong European workforce.

In a newsletter distributed to all Opel plants, the European Employee Forum (EEF), Opel's senior labour council, calculated that the closure of Antwerp would account only for a small proportion of the EUR265m (USD401m) in overall annual wage concessions that General Motors wants.

Should all the 2,300 Belgian workers be eliminated from the payroll, this would account for EUR20.2m (USD30.2m) in savings and the EEF expected each remaining Opel worker would face a an extra cut in pay of 7%, or around EUR500 (USD750) each.

The newsletter called for "solidarity" from the workforce.

An Opel spokesman could not explain where the unions had obtained their figures.

The Belgian region of Flanders has offered EUR300m (USD450m) in loan guarantees and a further EUR200m (USD300m) sale and leaseback deal to help protect the Antwerp plant although GM has yet to respond.

Having pulled out of a planned sale of Opel to Canadian company Magna, General Motors now plans to restructure the European business itself and Germany and Belgium are expected to shoulder the lion's share of more than 8,000 planned job cuts - redundancies likely to be financed with the help of taxpayer aid from the UK, Spain and Poland.

Labour leaders said that if GM stayed with its original plan for Antwerp - to build up to 120,000 small Opel and Chevrolet SUVs annually starting in 2012 - it could avoid spending an estimated EUR400m (USD600m) to close down the plant.

The EEF added: "It would be an important positive signal to the trade unions that the new management will be a reliable partner."

Along with consultants at Management Engineers, it has drafted an alternative business case for Antwerp that forecasts an overall net profit contribution of EUR500m (US$750m) over the next seven years, when the sale and leaseback deal is included and the closure costs are avoided.

According to the plan, the old Astra three-door and convertible versions would continue to be built until 2011, by which point the site would begin production of an Agila minivan replacement based on the existing Corsa developed with Fiat.

From 2012, a small Opel SUV using the new Gamma platform would be added. The unions also aim to win the next Combo panel van production contract (it is currently made at Zaragoza, Spain after being transferred from a shuttered plant in Portugal ) that has yet to be allocated.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more