Thousands Of GM Workers Protest In Europe

Workers at GM Europe's factories demonstrated Thursday, hoping to save their jobs at the troubled U.S. automaker's Adam Opel and other European divisions.

RUESSELSHEIM, Germany (AP) -- Thousands of workers at General Motors factories in Europe demonstrated Thursday, hoping to save their jobs at Adam Opel AG and the troubled U.S. automaker's other European operations.

Opel's red-brick factory in the gritty western German town of Ruesselsheim provided the backdrop for the main rally, where thousands of workers fear losing their jobs as GM reported a $9.6 billion fourth-quarter loss amid the worst U.S. auto sales climate since 1982.

"There is only one single chance, and that is spinning off Opel and Vauxhall from the GM group," Klaus Franz, Opel's top employee representative, told 15,000 workers gathered at the plant.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will face Chancellor Angela Merkel in elections this fall, said at least five European countries would need to cooperate to save Opel.

"That is not easy. There is no model for that," Steinmeier said at the rally.

About 1,000 workers rallied at another Opel factory in Eisenach. Demonstrations or work stoppages were also planned in Kaiserslautern, as well the Vauxhall division in Britain, and other sites in Austria, France, Spain and Hungary.

At the home of GM's Saab division in Trollhattan, Sweden, thousands of workers, union members and residents gathered to show their support one of the region's main job providers.

Images from broadcaster TV4 showed banners urging investors to "Buy Saab," while others called for the resignation of Sweden's Industry Minister Maud Olofsson for refusing to aid the car maker. Last week, Sweden's government rejected a plea for public funding for Saab, which filed for bankruptcy protection.

Opel's employee council has called for General Motors Corp. to be open to new partners, as well as government support. Analysts have said however that it would be difficult to separate Opel from GM because it is too closely integrated into the company.

Opel employs about 25,000 workers in Germany and builds cars in Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Britain. Together with suppliers, Saab employs around 15,000 workers in Sweden.

GM has announced it would cut 47,000 jobs globally by the end of the year -- 19 percent of its work force -- with jobs outside the U.S. accounting for 26,000 of the reductions. The company has sought some $6 billion in support from foreign governments to help its operations outside of the U.S.

Speaking in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government will only consider assistance for Opel when it and GM present a "sustainable company concept" for the future.

"Only then can we consider what kind of (aid is) necessary," Merkel said.

Associated Press writer Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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