They are trying hard, but it’s unlikely that the Spanish region of Aragon will convince General Motors to build the next Opel Meriva minivan at the Figuerelas factory in northeast Spain.

“All hope is gone,” Juan Carlos Sanchez, workers’committee chief for GM in Spain told just-auto. “The bid process has closed.”

Sanchez represents the large Spanish union UGT, which fought against counterpart syndicates Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and CGT, to push through a labour deal that would help Spain win the new Meriva’s assembly in 2009.

However, GM’s management, UGT and the government of the autonomous region of Aragon, where Figuerelas is located, could not gain majority support for the labour deal, which called for big wage cuts and worse working conditions.

GM’s Zurich-based European headquarters is expected to decide next month whether Figuerelas or Gliwice, Poland, will get the new contract.

“It’s only logical that the Meriva will go to Poland,” Sanchez said. “They have cheaper labour costs than us.” However, “there is tiny chance that they will choose us because of our cutting-edge technologies,” he added.

Meanwhile, the government of Aragon is scrambling to keep the car at Figuerelas (outside the city of Zaragoza) to avoid the loss of about 5,000 jobs when the factory’s Meriva contract expires in 2009.

“We are going to continue fighting with all we’ve got,” said a government spokeswoman, without disclosing the planned political measures it will use.

Last week, Aragon made a last-ditch effort to keep the Meriva in Spain by offering GM up to €30 million in state subsidies.

While acknowledging that prospects are bleak, the spokesman added: “As long as they haven’t made a decision, we have hope.”

Sanchez said that GM expects the Meriva’s production to continue uninterrupted this year. The factory makes 830 units daily of the mini-minivan and about 900 units of the Corsa for global distribution.

Ivan Castano