- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

RUESSELSHEIM, Germany

Thousands of workers at General Motors factories in Europe demonstrated Thursday, hoping to save their jobs at Adam Opel AG and the troubled U.S. automaker’s other European operations.

Opel’s red-brick factory in the gritty western German town of Ruesselsheim provided the backdrop for the main rally. Thousands of workers fear losing their jobs as GM reported a $9.6 billion fourth-quarter loss amid the worst U.S. auto sales climate since 1982.

“There is only one single chance, and that is spinning off Opel and Vauxhall from the GM group,” Klaus Franz, Opel’s top employee representative, told 15,000 workers gathered at the plant.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will face Chancellor Angela Merkel in fall elections, said at least five European countries must cooperate to save Opel.

“That is not easy. There is no model for that,” Mr. Steinmeier said at the rally.

About 1,000 workers rallied at another Opel factory in Eisenach. Demonstrations or work stoppages were also planned for Kaiserslautern, the Vauxhall division in Britain and sites in Austria, France, Spain and Hungary.

At the home of GM’s Saab division in Trollhattan, Sweden, thousands of workers, union members and residents gathered to show their support for one of the region’s main job providers.

Images from broadcaster TV4 showed banners urging investors to “Buy Saab,” while others called for the resignation of Sweden’s Industry Minister Maud Olofsson for refusing to aid the carmaker. Last week, Sweden’s government rejected a plea for public funding for Saab, which filed for bankruptcy protection.

Opel’s employee council has called for General Motors Corp. to be receptive to new partners, as well as government support. Analysts have said, however, that it would be difficult to separate Opel from GM because it is too closely integrated into the company.

Opel employs about 25,000 workers in Germany and builds cars in Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Britain. Together with suppliers, Saab employs about 15,000 workers in Sweden.

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