GM Woes = Opel Angst As German Workers Protest

February 26, 2009

Proving that GM's problems are far from contained to its U.S. operations, thousands of GM factory workers protested today outside the Adam Opel AG plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany. They demonstrated in hopes of saving their jobs, and elsewhere in Europe factory workers affected by threatened GM plant layoffs staged similar protests.

Provoking job loss fears was GM's announcement of a crippling $9.6 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2008. Opel's top employee representative Klaus Franz underscored the dire situation by spelling out the ramifications: "there is only one single chance, and that is spinning off Opel and Vauxhall from the GM group." Franz spoke those words while addressing a sea of 15,000 workers gathered at the Ruesselsheim plant.

Opel Logo

Opel Logo

Enlarge Photo

A German politician claimed that no fewer than five countries must band together to save Opel. Elsewhere in Germany, work stoppages and rallies disrupted GM global assembly lines in Eisenach and Kaiserslautern. Across Europe, similar scenarios played out at GM plants in Sweden (Saab), the U.K. (Vauxhall), Austria, France, Spain, and Hungary.

Analysts claim that splitting Opel off from GM presents a massive challenge as the two companies are so closely enmeshed. Nonetheless, Opel's employee council has asked GM to remain open to government support and new business partners. In Germany, Opel employs roughly 25,000 workers. 26,000 of the 47,000 global jobs GM plans to cut by the end of the year are planned for its non-U.S. operations.

Sounding much like Nancy Pelosi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed her country's government would only consider support for Opel when presented with a "sustainable company concept" for the future.

[source: Detroit News]

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