Opel car-workers and union leaders from across Europe have gathered in Belgium to protest against plans to cut thousands of jobs.
The production line in Antwerp could be axed by new owners Magna as part of 10,500 planned job losses throughout the company. All German plants will stay open but Germans were among those demonstrating, in a show of solidarity. One Spanish protester said all those taking part reject factory closures and compulsory redundancies. When restructuring is necessary, it must be done under socially-acceptable terms, he added. Like Spain, jobs are under threat in Britain. A British demonstrator said: “Our position is no plant closures, no compulsory redundancies and a fair distribution of product allocation, quite simple.” The European Commission is examining whether Germany has tied 4.5 billion euros in promised state aid to the preservation of plants there. EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said: “It can’t be that one country finances a solution at the expense of others. European law is quite clear on this point. Government aid is prohibited according to the European treaty and tolerable only in exceptional cases. Aid is not tolerable if it is tied to political conditions.” Canadian automotive supplier Magna and Russian partner Sberbank have agreed to buy a majority stake in Opel, the European arm of General Motors, and are in talks to work out final details.