Spain 'surprised' by GM move, ready to talk

5th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Industry Ministry Miguel Sebastian said the deal reached between unions at the Opel plant in Spain and Magna International would serve as a basis for negotiations in their new dialogue with General Motors.

Madrid – Spain voiced "surprise" on Wednesday at General Motors' decision to scrap plans to sell its troubled unit Opel, and said it was ready to negotiate with the US manufacturer.

"We are surprised, and we are ready to have a dialogue with General Motors," said Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian.

He said that a deal reached last month between unions at the Opel plant in Spain and Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna International could serve as a basis for negotiations.

"It's a starting point, a minimal accord, and from that we can continue to talk," he told journalists.

Workers at the plant in Figueruelas, northern Spain, voted last week to accept the plan by Magna that would see the loss of 900 of the more than 7,000 jobs at the factory.

On Tuesday, GM scrapped its on-again, off-again plan to sell its loss-making European arm Opel to Magna and its partner, Russian state-owned lender Sberbank.

The automaker explained the abrupt U-turn by underscoring "an improving business environment for GM over the past few months, and the importance of Opel/Vauxhall to GM's global strategy."

GM Europe employs about 55,000 workers in Germany, Britain, Spain, Belgium, Poland and Austria, and the planned sale had turned into a major polemic involving US and European governments over which portions of the automaker would be saved and what types of aid would be offered.

Unions at the Figuerelas plant also expressed concern over the GM decision.

"It is surprising news and which is causing huge uncertainty. We don't know what General Motors plans will be," said Ana Sanchez, the representative of the CCOO union at the plant.

"We will not return to the starting point of negotiations but to a situation well before that."

The CCOO has called for an "urgent meeting" with the Spanish government over the announcement, she said.

A representative of the UGT union at the Spanish plant, Pedro Bona, said that he believed GM made the decision "because in the end they had trouble reaching a deal with Magna.

"But it's astonishing as everything indicated General Motors favoured a deal with Magna."

AFP / Expatica

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