Vauxhall chairman Nick Reilly has said that the 2,200 job losses at its Luton plant could save jobs at other UK plants, according to media reports.

Contrary to popular belief in the wake of Ford's announcement of the end of British car making, the Vauxhall chief denied that the axe fell on his UK operations because it's easier to make people redundant in Britain than in Europe.

Reilly said Britain had escaped job cuts Europe had suffered so far -- but now it was time for the British workforce to 'share the pain'.

Speaking on a radio news channel, Reilly said the job losses were part of a Europe-wide review of the GM's performance. The company is making heavy losses on the continent.

Cutting jobs at Luton could save jobs at other UK plants such as the Astra factory at Ellesmere Port. The losses are in part due to poor utilisation of plant, he explained, and that consolidating production in fewer factories would cut costs.

"There are going to be 5,000 people laid off in the next two to three years in Europe," he told Radio Five Live. "This was a matter of getting all our manufacturing resources around Europe better utilised. We can take a plant out and fit that production elsewhere and so improve the capacity utilisation across the group."

Contrary to a second popular opinion, Reilly denied that the strength of the pound and Britain's failure to enter the single European currency were major factors in deciding the fate of the workers at Luton though he did concede the issue "flavours the opinion".

Luton had been earmarked because it was "a single product plant" making the mid-sized Vectra with Vauxhall badging for the UK and Opel and Holden badges for export.

"If we put the replacement Vectra into a plant that also makes the Astra, for example, their cycles are different. So when one has come to the end of its life the other is beginning and you will get a constant production in that plant as you flex between the two different models.

"We found that we could do that in one of two Astra plants and that's where the replacement Vectra will go."

Meanwhile other news reports say that John Monks, TUC General Secretary, has condemned Vauxhall's decision to axe 2,200 jobs at Luton.

Describing the site as a 'successful plant with model industrial relations', he said General Motors should consider other options apart from redundancy.

Mr Monks said unions weren't in a position to discuss possible alternatives to job losses with companies like Vauxhall but still had to try.

He said the government had been "caught napping the same as everybody else" by Vauxhall's decision./P> "I hope the government makes it clear it is not acceptable for companies to behave in this way," he said. "It's been a bad year for British car manufacturing."