Workers Strike At Belgian GM Plant Over Layoffs, Restructuring Plan

GM plans to layoff 1,400 workers at Antwerp plant; unions say restructuring plan is putting plant's future in jeopardy.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Workers at the General Motors Opel plant in Antwerp went on strike Thursday to protest plans to lay off 1,400 workers under the company's restructuring plan.

The plant, which currently employs 5,100 people, is facing a phaseout in production of the Astra model under plans announced by GM earlier this month. The next generation of the Astra will be built at plants in Germany, Sweden, Poland and Britain.

The company said it would like to shift Antwerp's production to building 80,000 Chevrolet model cars, and possibly the production of another unspecified 60,000 cars of another model.

Unions, however, said they would demand higher production quotas to save jobs at the plant, which currently makes 220,000 cars annually.

They vowed to continue their strike until next Thursday when GM's European management visits the plant to discuss the restructuring.

''People have started to count (and) 80,000 is too little to save the factory,'' Rudi Kennes, from the socialist ABVV union told VRT Television.

The Belgian national and Flemish regional governments have lobbied hard in recent months to stave off a growing list of layoffs in the country's faltering car manufacturing sector.

Similar restructuring moves at Volkswagen's Brussels plant led to 3,500 jobs being cut there after the company decided to shift production of its Golf model to two German factories.