Protests erupt over GM job cuts as Jaguar and Land Rover losses rise

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The Independent Online

America's two biggest car makers ran into fresh trouble in Europe yesterday as tens of thousands of General Motors workers demonstrated against job cuts, and Ford announced increased losses in its Premier Automotive Group (PAG), which includes the Jaguar and Land Rover marques.

America's two biggest car makers ran into fresh trouble in Europe yesterday as tens of thousands of General Motors workers demonstrated against job cuts, and Ford announced increased losses in its Premier Automotive Group (PAG), which includes the Jaguar and Land Rover marques.

The mass protests against GM's plans to axe 12,000 jobs and save €500m (£347) involved about 50,000 workers from Poland to Britain. They were accompanied by a sixth day of strikes at GM's German plant in Bochum which brought production to a standstill at factories in Belgium and elsewhere in Germany.

Meanwhile, Ford said that third-quarter losses at its PAG division increased from $24m (£13m) last year to $171m. The loss was entirely due to PAG's three UK brands - Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.

Volvo, by contrast, is thought to have made a profit. Ford blamed the loss at PAG on car launch costs, adverse exchange rates and one-off restructuring charges at Jaguar. Ford caused union outrage last month by announcing the closure of Jaguar's Browns Lane plant in Coventry along with 1,100 job cuts in an effort to stem mounting losses. Ford of Europe, the group's volume car division, cut its losses for the three months from $400m to $33m.

GM's announcement of job losses prompted more than 7,000 workers at Bochum to go on indefinite strike and demand that it drop proposals to cut jobs. Dietmar Hahn, the head of the plant's work's council, said: "Redundancies are the only solution the deadbeats in pinstriped suits can come up with."

Yesterday the resulting spare parts' shortage forced production stoppages at GM's plant in Antwerp, where the Opel Astra is produced. The Bochum strike also brought production to a standstill at two of the company's other factories at Rüsselsheim and Kaiserslautern in Germany although the Eisenach plant in Germany was not forced to stop production. A spokesman at GM's European headquarters in Zurich insisted that only its German and Belgian plants were affected. He said: "Production in Europe has not come to a standstill."

Vauxhall workers in Britain have been told that about 340 jobs will be cut at Ellesmere Port on Merseyside, where the Astra is built, while 94 could go at its van factory in Luton. Workers at both plants supported the Europe-wide protests yesterday but said they could not walk out or strike without a ballot.

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