- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

FRANKFURT, Germany | General Motors Co. said Thursday that it will not close its Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, England, and doesn’t expect job cuts there as part of its restructuring of European operations.

News of GM’s plans for the British plant came as the U.S. automaker embarks on a restructuring effort for its European operations, which include Opel and Vauxhall.

That is expected to result in about 9,000 job cuts - up to 60 percent of them in Germany. On Wednesday, GM Europe chief Nick Reilly said that the future of an Opel plant in Antwerp, Belgium, is “uncertain.”

GM Europe gave no details on the future of another Vauxhall plant in Luton, England, but said it expected to give an update in the coming days.

The company said its plans call for output to increase at Ellesmere Port to three daily shifts in 2011 from two currently.

“To support the launch in 2010 of the new Astra Sports Tourer and to prepare for the third shift introduction in 2011, the plan is for no redundancies as all current labor would need to be utilized to staff the third shift,” a GM Europe statement said.

Opel employee council chief Klaus Franz on Wednesday raised the possibility of 354 job cuts at Luton, but GM U.K. spokeswoman Uta Deutsch said that nothing was confirmed or agreed.

Ms. Deutsch said company officials expect to meet Friday with employees at Luton - which builds Opel, Vauxhall, Renault and Nissan vans - and that they will be informed of a final decision Monday.

Luton has a contract with Renault until 2012 and is in talks with Renault to secure further work from the French company beyond that date, she said.

Opel employs about 45,000 people in Europe, about 25,000 of them in Germany.

GM hopes that European governments will help pay most of the $4.9 billion it needs to restructure its European operations.

On Thursday, however, Belgium’s Flanders region said a proposed loan for GM is “not on the table” until it has more details on Antwerp’s future. Local unions said they expect between 2,000 to 2,600 jobs to go.

Kris Peeters, the regional premier, said he would talk to economy ministers of other European countries where Opel operates on Dec. 4 about how they could fund the company. EU nations agreed this week not to negotiate individually with it.

“We need more information, we need the business plan, we need the position of Antwerp,” he said, describing the company’s lack of transparency on the future of the Belgian plant as “a very big problem for us.”

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