* Follows worker rejection of Opel plant closure plan
* European car sales in freefall
* Chancellor Angela Merkel facing re-election in September
BERLIN, April 5 The chief executive of General
Motors and the head of its Opel unit in Germany will meet
Chancellor Angela Merkel next week to discuss the rejection of a
plant closure timetable by workers which could speed the
With job losses looming at Opel's Bochum plant and against a
background of European car sales in freefall, government
spokesman Georg Streiter said Dan Akerson and Karl-Thomas
Neumann will have a one-hour session with Merkel in Berlin on
Merkel is seeking a third term as chancellor in September.
Her re-election in 2009 took place amid tortuous negotiations
between GM and Berlin, which applied pressure to save Opel by
selling a stake to supplier Magna.
The deal eventually fell through, but only after the
election, which meant it did not spoil Merkel's victory.
Opel, GM's second-largest brand behind Chevrolet, has lost
billions of euros in recent years as European car sales have
plunged to near 20-year lows, despite repeated bouts of job
Opel workers at Bochum last month rejected a restructuring
deal agreed by union leaders and management which would have
kept the plant open through the end of 2016 on significantly
reduced staff numbers.
The rejection could lead to the plant's closing at the end
of next year.
Streiter said the meeting with Merkel coincided with a
meeting of the GM board in Germany and was at the U.S.
Asked by reporters whether Opel would be the subject of
Thursday's discussions, Streiter said he "could not rule it
German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler will not attend as
he will be on an official trip to Turkey, his ministry said.
Management offered to keep the Bochum plant in western
Germany 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.