GM's Opel Bochum plant to close after employees reject deal

FRANKFURT, March 21 Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:06pm EDT

FRANKFURT, March 21 (Reuters) - Employees at the Bochum, Germany car plant of General Motors' Opel unit have rejected a restructuring deal agreed by union leaders and management, meaning production at the plant will now cease at the end of next year, the company said.

Management had offered to keep the plant open for another two years until the end of 2016 and then retain 1,200 of the more than 3,000 employees in other component and warehousing jobs. In exchange workers would have had to agree to wage increases being delayed.

GM's second-largest brand behind only Chevrolet, Opel has lost billions in recent years as European car sales have plunged to near 20-year lows, despite repeated bouts of job cuts that included closing a car plant in Belgium at the end of 2010.

However, 76 percent of employees taking part in a vote at the site rejected the plan, said the IG Metall union, with union leaders saying the employees found the management's promises too vague.

Opel said it will now cease production of Zafira Tourer vehicles at the end of 2014 and at that date a guarantee to not make any compulsory redundancies also expires.

"I see the result as a clear vote of no confidence in the Opel management," IG Metall's regional head Knut Giesler said on Thursday.

Opel said it regretted that the employees did not accept the offer.

"A big chance has been lost," Manfred Gellrich, head of the Opel plant in Bochum said. He confirmed there would be no further talks.

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