Workers Rise Up Over Gm Magna Plans

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• 20,000 march in Zaragossa

• Thousands mass in Antwerp today

• 1400-1800 jobs to go in UK

TODAY tens of thousands of angry GM workers and supporters from across Europe and beyond are demonstrating outside the Antwerp Opel plant, pledging that they will take every action necessary to stop Magna shutting it down.

If that happens, 2,700 workers will lose their jobs. Belgian workers are demanding that the plant be nationalised.

20,000 Spanish workers marched through the streets of Zaragossa on Saturday, threatening to take strike action and occupy the Figueruelas plant unless the plan to export 2,100 Opel jobs to Germany’s Eisenach plant is dropped.

Yesterday the German daily ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ said that the engine and transmission production of Opel will be moved to Szentgotthárd, Hungary from Rüsselsheim in Germany.

It added that about 10 per cent of the Rüsselsheim staff will be sacked – over 1,400 workers.

Under the just-made deal, Magna/Sberbank will purchase a 55 per cent stake in New Opel; GM will hold a 35 per cent stake and ‘employees’ will hold a 10 per cent stake.

Under the deal, expected to be closed by November 30, the German government also pledged $6.5 billion in credit.

Magna plans to axe 11,000 jobs, about 500 more than previously expected, and at least 4,500 workers will be sacked in Germany.

The sackings will hit the Bochum plant the hardest, with 2,000 sackings expected.

460 workers will be sacked at the Kaiserslautern-based Opel plant, the paper added, contending that the only factory unaffected by the sackings and closures will be the Eisenach plant.

Magna is to shut down the Antwerp plant in Belgium where they make Opel Astra models, and scrap a total of 2,700 jobs in that country.

According to the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ 1,400 workers will be sacked at GMM Luton and Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port.

Later yesterday Unite co-leader Tony Woodley mentioned a figure of 1,800.

Talks between European unions and representatives from General Motors and Magna are due to start next week over plans to cut the 11,000 jobs at Opel in Europe.

Workers are demanding a campaign across Europe to stop all the sackings and closures and to demand that all of the Opel and Vauxhall plants in Europe are nationalised.

Workers marching in Zaragossa last Saturday were carrying placards and banners with anti-takeover slogans, demanding the withdrawal of the Magna bid.

They stated: ‘We will fight tooth and nail to defend every job at the plant.

‘Everyone here is worried about job losses in the region. It has nothing to do with ideology. The plant is in danger and we are on the streets to defend it.’

Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in the Eurozone, with current figures standing at around 17 per cent and expected to rise to around 20 per cent by the turn of the year.

The Unite trade union in the UK has called on GM workers here to rely on Business Secretary Mandelson to defend their jobs.

The union’s leaders Woodley and Simpson oppose the occupation of the UK plants to stop the sackings and prevent closures.

They also oppose the nationalisation of the UK GM plants on the grounds that Mandelson and Brown will not support this policy.

GM workers told News Line yesterday that they were demanding mass meetings so that workers can decide on a policy of joining the Europe-wide movement to stop the sackings and closures, and that both plants must be occupied and nationalised to defend their jobs.

Unite confirmed yesterday that it will not be attending the Antwerp demonstration.