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Opel workers call for 'unified social Europe'

Opel workers call for 'unified social Europe'
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Opel workers union representatives converging on a threatened factory in Belgium are demanding European unity. They reject General Motors’ Europe’s restructuring plans to close the Antwerp plant and cut more than 8,000 jobs Europe-wide.

Employees from Opel in Germany, Poland and Spain, and the UK’s Vauxhall plants demonstrated solidarity.

Peter Scherrer, General Secretary of the European Metal Workers Federation, said: ‘‘There will be no sacrifice and no concession by the trade unions, by the workers in other plants — nothing! Not unless this decision is reversed. The pre-condition for everything is that the management has to take back the decision to close Antwerp.’‘

The company is still in talks to get up to 2.7 billion euros in state aid from the German, Polish, Spanish and UK governments. The workers fear this will leave the Belgians out in the cold.

Werner Dillen of the Flemish Catholic Union in Antwerp said: “I think it is time for a social Europe, otherwise the big multinationals will profit from it and they will say to each country ‘give us some money and we will keep your plants open’, so we need a Europe that is unified.”

Peter Giesser with IG Metall Betriebsrat said: “Of course politics can help us, but GM must as well. And from what I have heard GM doesn’t want the money that the Flemish government has put at its disposal. It doesn’t want the money. It is a political decision.”

GM’s operations in Europe currently employ around 48,000 people. The unions said management announced unilaterally it would close the Antwerp plant, ignoring its legal obligation to follow an information and consultation process.

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