End Of The Road For 900 Workers At GM's British Plant

General Motors said on May 17 that it will slash 900 jobs and cut production at its Vauxhall car factory in Britain. Vauxhall said the move reflected the "ongoing pressure" in the motor industry to reduce costs and increase productivity. The car plant at Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool in northwest England, will lose its nightshift in August, cutting production of the Vauxhall Astra car model from three shifts to two.

Fearing the announcement, hundreds of workers staged an unofficial strike at the plant on May 17, halting production. The Ellesmere Port plant employs 3,300 people and smashed production records last year by producing 188,000 cars.

Staff were told just after British finance minister Gordon Brown and Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling arrived at the factory to meet senior managers. "We want to do everything we can as a government to put this company and the workforce in a position to win a new model and secure 100 million pounds plus (US$190 million, 147 million euros) of investment to guarantee work for 20 years ahead in this area," said Brown.

The president of General Motors in Europe, Carl-Peter Forster, said on May 16 that there was "no viable alternative" to the job cuts. "Our industry simply cannot afford to stop continually improving productivity in its western European car plants," he said.

Vauxhall chairman Jon Browning said on May 16 that they hoped to achieve the British job losses through voluntary redundancies.

The general secretary of trade union Amicus, Derek Simpson, added that the development marked "another devastating blow to the car industry and UK manufacturing in general".

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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