GM Workers in Brazil Protest Layoffs

The protest came a day after the company announced it was cutting 744 jobs at the company's Sao Jose dos Campos plant.

Protesting GM's layoff of 802 employees , workers in Brazil are demanding they be reinstated. The Metalworkers Union covering GM's Sao Jose dos Campos plant outside Sao Paulo said the workers downed tools for an hour at the start of their first shift.

The stoppage came a day after the company announced it was cutting 744 jobs at the factory because of the sudden slowdown in car sales in Brazil since last September caused by the crisis.

GM on Jan. 9 also informed the union it was laying off another 58 workers, bringing the total to 802. Most of those being shed were on temporary contracts that still had months to run.

The employees were demanding the company rehire the fired workers and guarantee employment at the plant, and that the Brazilian government support them, the union said. "It's absurd that the bosses want the workers to pay the price of a crisis they didn't create," said the union's director, Vivaldo Moreira Araujo. "We are going to resist, and call on authorities to take a position, because up to now they have done nothing to defend employment."

No comment was immediately available from General Motors Brazil or its U.S.parent on the worker protests. The company, which has 24,000 workers in its three plants in Brazil, on Jan. 12 issued a statement saying it was making the job cuts because of the "new situation" in the market, which has seen sales and production plummet.

GM recently extended by three weeks mandatory vacation imposed on 5,200 workers at its factory in the southern city of Rio Grande do Sul.

There are fears in Brazil that mass layoffs could ravage the automobile sector as it copes with abrupt downturn. The country is both the biggest market and the biggest producer of vehicles in Latin America.

Other carmakers present in Brazil include Ford, Fiat, Volkswagen and Peugeot, all of which have put thousands of workers on leave to idle plants.

Brazil's government, concerned at the central place the flagging sector has in the economy, in November announced $3.5 billion in aid, mostly to prompt reluctant car-buyers to sign up for auto finance.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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