Opel’s workers’ representatives have questioned the Magna International consortium’s plans to restructure the automaker, despite supporting the deal.


Harald Lieske, head of the Eisenach plant’s works council, told Financial Times Deutschland he expected job cuts to be below 10,500, the maximum limit set by Magna. The unionist said he was absolutely certain that the actual number would be below the 10,000-mark.


Also, the planned closure of the Antwerp plant in Belgium is in no way a certain thing, the deputy head of GM Europe’s works council Rudi Kennes told the paper.


“We have not been told that Antwerp will be closed,” he said.


While a Magna team negotiates the future of the Belgian plant and its 2,000 workers. Kennes estimated the chances that Antwerp would be preserved at 50%.


The comments came as tousands of car workers and their supporters, including hundreds from Germany, protested at the Antwerp factory on Wednesday.


“If we don’t fight today for the future of Antwerp, it will be the same thing at another plant tomorrow,” Peter Scherrer, German head of the European metalworkers federation (FEM), told AFP.


A huge yellow banner, the colour of the German automaker, bearing the slogan ‘We are Opel’ was hung on the side of the building for the protest, called by European metalworkers’ unions.


Meanwhile, GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said in an interview with a German auto magazine that “the new Opel has to close at least one factory,” stressing that “Antwerp is an option – but no definitive decision has been taken.”


“Magna has not said that the Antwerp factory is going to close,” Rudi Kennes of Belgium’s FGTB trade union told German HR-Info radio, adding that he had been in meetings with the company since Tuesday.


Concerns have also been raised in Britain and Spain, where Magna is also threatening to cut jobs, but Belgian unions fear their plant will be sacrificed due to the heavy German state aid although that is the subject of a European Commission probe.


“We will never accept the closure of a production centre, nor lay-offs without a social plan,” Belgian trade union official Walter Cnop told the protesters.


“Production must be shared out fairly,” he added, aware that none of the four plants in Germany face closure.


Hundreds of German workers were taken by bus to the Belgian plant, which halted production at lunchtime for two hours for the “solidarity meeting”. Other delegations arrived from Poland, Spain and Hungary.