General Motors staff have been lobbying Congress to keep CEO Rick Wagoner in charge of their beleagured employer.

Some Republican senators have called for Wagoner’s head in exchange for any government bailout. According to Dow Jones, salaried engineers were encouraged in an early Tuesday email to sign a letter that would be sent later in the day to Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, and the Senate Banking Committee which could vote as early as late Wednesday on the $15bn bailout package agreed between House Democrats and the Bush White House last night.

Dodd at the weekend suggested Wagoner should step down.

GM officials were reported to have said in their appeal to employees: “Rick Wagoner’s commitment to GM, workers, engineers and family has been exemplary. And we feel in this difficult moment we must give him and want to assure him of our support.”

“There is generally a lot of support for Rick among employees at GM,” spokesman Tom Wilkinson told Dow Jones. “There’s been some frustration that there seems to be a perception gap in Washington in terms of people’s understanding of the industry.” Wilkinson told the news agency the lobbying effort was not initiated by Wagoner or other ranking executives.

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The report said the letter to Dodd and the committee was expected to thank Congress for considering giving GM a loan but discredit the idea of removing Wagoner as a condition. “As much as we celebrate and hope for congressional help, we are concerned about the call for Rick Wagoner to step down,” the letter said. “We believe that GM has a good plan and Mr. Wagoner and his leadership team are the right people to enact this plan.

“What is seen by some outside of our company and industry as failure on the part of Mr. Wagoner and the GM leadership team is seen by many of us who have been on the ‘inside’ for many years as an excellent job of steering the company through unprecedented internal and external challenges which might have otherwise already spelled the demise of GM.”

Yesterday, former Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca defended the Big Three CEOs, saying that, while they had made mistakes, they had the experience and industry knowledge to get the automakers through current difficult times.