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Opel workers in Germany stage protests

November 5, 2009

Opel workers in Germany stage protests

Associated Press

Ruesselsheim, Germany — Opel employees walked off their jobs to attend a mass rally at the automaker’s headquarters Thursday, protesting General Motors Co.’s decision to abandon the unit’s sale to new owners the workers hoped would preserve jobs.

Thousands of the 25,000 employees from Opel’s four German factories vented their frustration and anger at GM, which after months of negotiations decided Tuesday to scrap the sale of a majority in Opel to Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russian lender Sberbank.

"Our trust (in GM) is now zero, and that is the heart of the problem," Klaus Franz, the head of Opel’s employee council, told thousands of workers in Ruesselsheim, winning applause.

Franz called on GM to come up with a viable plan for the automaker. "We are starting over again from zero," he said.

GM’s move has been heavily criticized by German politicians, who had given strong backing to the Magna deal. The employees fear GM’s decision to restructure Adam Opel GmbH on its own could result in bigger layoffs and job cuts.

John Smith, GM’s chief negotiator for the sale of Opel, said in a conference call Wednesday that GM’s plan was similar but not identical to that presented by Magna and Sberbank, which had called for the elimination of 10,500 European jobs or about 20 percent of the work force.

Smith did not elaborate on possible job losses.

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