GM announces plans to close Opel Antwerp facility

General Motors is closing down its Opel plant in Antwerp, and forfeiting up to €500 million (about $707 million) in aid the Flemish government had promised if the operation had remained open. The action is expected to take place over the next few months. Shutting down Antwerp is just one part of GM's restructuring program for its European operations - underway for a year now. All told, the automaker estimates it will have to cut 8,300 jobs, including 4,000 in Germany alone. According to GM, Opel needs to cut its production capacity by 20 percent to remain viable; the the Antwerp facility made models that could be built elsewhere.
The plant closure is one of the first in Europe since the financial crisis began two years ago. As expected, it is being met with controversy. GM's European works council (EWC), a cross-border trade union corporation, calls the plant closure a "one-sided and economically unreasonable approach." They accused GM of breaking an agreement to bring production of a small SUV to Antwerp (it'll be made in South Korea instead). Enraged over the loss of their 2,606 jobs, the line workers at the Antwerp facility organized an impromptu blockade to prevent new cars from leaving the factory earlier this week.

[Source: The Financial Times]

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