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German Opel workers blockade plant to protest possible factory closure

BRUSSELS, Belgium - General Motors plans to close Opel's plant in Antwerp, Belgium with the loss of more than 2,300 jobs, a German trade union official said Thursday, as workers blockaded the factory parking lot in protest.

BRUSSELS, Belgium - General Motors plans to close Opel's plant in Antwerp, Belgium with the loss of more than 2,300 jobs, a German trade union official said Thursday, as workers blockaded the factory parking lot in protest.

Franco Biagiotti, the head of the employee council at Opel's plant in Bochum, Germany, told the DAPD press agency that the head of Adam Opel GmbH, Nick Reilly, had said this week that the Antwerp plant would close.

Opel had no comment on local press reports say the plant's management would hold a meeting Thursday to discuss the future of the factory.

Workers in Antwerp occupied the factory's parking lot in protest at the possible job losses, telling reporters that cars would be "kept hostage."

The fate of the Antwerp plant has been uncertain for some time. When General Motors Co. planned to sell its European car making unit to Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russian lender Sberbank last year, the bidders said they would close it down. GM later decided against selling its European business.

German daily Welt reported Thursday that most of Antwerp's Astra production is to be transferred to the plant in Bochum, citing anonymous sources from the worker council.

Opel said in 2007 that it would stop making the Astra at Antwerp and would possibly replace it with midsize Chevrolet models or sport utility vehicles - heavier vehicles that now find fewer buyers as cash-for-clunkers programs and cash-strapped customers favour more fuel-efficient cars.

Belgium's De Standaard newspaper said GM would lay out details of restructuring for all European factories at a Jan. 28 meeting with unions.

The Belgian government has tried to stave off the Antwerp plant's closure by earlier this year offering the company up to C500 million ($707 million) to upgrade the facilities.

 
 
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