General Motors does not expect plans to cut hundreds of jobs at its Figuerelas plant in Zaragoza, Spain, by 2006 to hurt production rates or sales in that market, a company spokeswoman confirmed to just-auto.

She said the company was still negotiating the redundancies scheme which trade unions say envisages cutting 600 jobs or 8% of the factory’s 8,300 workers.

The move is the Spanish answer to the US car-making giant’s plan to eliminate 12,000 European payrolls in a two-year cost-reduction drive.

The spokeswoman confirmed GM’s Spanish commercial director Juan Manuel Lumbreras’ comments to local press that the redundancies won’t affect Figuerelas’ output rates or product quality.

The measures “are expected to boost our competitiveness so we can continue making big investments to develop products with an attractive design and technological advances affordable for our customers,” Lumbreras said.

He added that GM and Spanish unions are holding meetings to provide departing workers with early retirement or voluntary severance.

A GM workers’ committee representative said unions expect the redundancies to dent Figurelas’ production by at least 10% to 1,850 from 2,100 vehicles daily in two years. The official, who requested anonymity, said unions want GM to pre-retire or hand voluntary severances to all the workers, most of whom will leave in 2005.

“We don’t want a single traumatic departure or we will hold strikes,” he warned.

GM is expected to meet European syndicates early next month to negotiate the embattled redundancies scheme.

The company’s Spanish sales have been on a five-year declining spree, the union official said, adding that car sales are forecast to reach 408,000 units this year from 465,000 in 2003.

“We’ve had 58 days of technical stops since 1999 because of excess production,” he said. “Production is going to have to come down even more.”

Ivan Castano