General Motors will close its van factory north of Lisbon at the end of October unless the Portuguese government comes up with a package within a month to convince the US carmaker to stay in the country, within a month, GM said.
GM wrote to unions to warn them of the closure date this week, amid Europe-wide strikes against the company that briefly forced it to airlift parts to keep factories open.
Trade unions in Germany, Spain, Belgium and Sweden have taken industrial action after accusing the company of planning to make the closure of the plant, in Azambuja, the first step in a shift of production to eastern Europe and Asia. The company denies such a plan, and says Azambuja costs €500 ($626) per car more than other factories because of its isolated position.
GM faces a grilling over its European production plans on Monday when Jonathan Browning, chairman of UK division Vauxhall, appears before British MPs.
Mr Browning will face the Commons trade and industry committee immediately after the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which fears GM is planning to close its Ellesmere Port car factory on Merseyside.
GM cut a shift with the loss of 900 jobs there last month. Unions have threatened to call for a boycott of Vauxhall cars if it closes the plant altogether as part of a review of where to build the next generation of the Astra hatchback early next year.
British unions are already calling for a boycott of cars from PSA Peugeot Citroën if it does not reverse the planned shutdown of its factory in Coventry.
GM has particularly angered its unions by beginning work on a new factory near St Petersburg in Russia, and admitting to advanced negotiations over a joint venture to assemble Chevrolet cars, currently imported from South Korea, in Poland.
Portuguese government, Azambuja executives and local worker representatives have formed a working group to come up with a rescue plan for the Portuguese factory after the intervention of the prime minister prompted GM to delay the final closure decision by five weeks. But GM admitted: “There is not very much progress so far.”
GM has been hit by a wave of short work stoppages across its European factory, but unions have so far held back from major strikes that could imperil the company’s plan to make its first annual profit in six years in Europe.
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