INDUSTRY NEWS:
Vauxhall Workers To Agree New Terms To Secure Astra Production
By GILES MILNER
17th MAY 2012

Britain is close to securing a deal that would see General Motors build the next generation of its Astra compact model at Ellesmere Port rather than in Germany, sources said Wednesday.

Such a deal, which is dependent on workers at the plant near Liverpool agreeing to changed working conditions, would be a blow for Germany and a major coup for the British government, which is grappling with a recession and weak opinion poll ratings.

GM is currently looking at options for restructuring its European operations where cars are produced under the Opel and Vauxhall brands and plants in both Germany and Britain are seen to be at risk of closure.

Opel is presenting a number of challenges including wage cuts, more temporary workers and outsourcing to management of the plant in Ellesmere Port, according to a second, senior union, source.

Workers at the plant have been voting on a new labour deal covering pay and terms and conditions.There will be a new four-year pay deal. Workers will also face a change in normal hours due to the change in shift patterns.

It is understood that the plan will keep the plant operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Opel's management is considering halting production of the Astra, its most important model, at its main plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany, and making the car only in Ellesmere Port and in Poland's Gliwice plant from 2015.

In return, Ruesselsheim could make the Zafira compact minivan, which is currently being made in Bochum. There has been growing concern among Opel's workers that management plans to shutter the Bochum plant, a symbol of Germany's post-war economic recovery.

The automotive sector still accounts for more than one-tenth of Britain's total exports and employs more than 700,000 people.