European labour leaders at GM'S Opel have identified nearly EUR6bn (US$8.4bn) in wage-related costs that could be saved over the next five years, the head of its works council told Reuters.

The plan could help save the future of Opel's numerous assembly and component plants, a key demand of the 50,000 workers employed throughout Europe, including those in such endangered sites as Antwerp in Belgium or Luton near London.

"At the end of last year the European workforce along with our consultants, Management Engineers, began a process in which task forces had gone through the entire business of General Motors Europe - at times together with the local management," works council chairman Klaus Franz said in an interview with the news agency.

"We have identified in Europe a savings potential of EUR5.676bn in structural costs between the end of 2008 and the end of 2014," he continued, adding he had presented this plan to Opel's frontrunning bidder Magna.

Labour had originally committed itself to deliver $1.2bn in structural cost savings to return Opel to profitability by 2011 as part of a deal reached at the end of February with GM's management.

Reuters said the plan underlined labour's commitment to work constructively with a future Opel investor - most likely Magna - unless the supplier chooses to bow out of a deal. Beijing Automotive (BAIC) has also bid for Opel.

Moreover, fairly distributing the pain of a restructuring programme throughout all European sites in such a way as to avoid closing any one plant could very well meet with approval among competition authorities in Brussels, the report noted.