GM readies Opel plan, workers strike
Thousands of auto workers put down tools at German factories, saying GM had betrayed their interests by reversing a decision to sell a majority stake in Opel to a Russian-backed consortium led by Magna International.
GM's board decided earlier this week to keep Opel -- stepping away from months of painstaking negotiations -- and to seek government aid in Europe for a restructuring plan expected to cut thousand of jobs.
About half of Opel's 50,000 workers are in Germany, where government aid to support the GM unit has been a source of controversy for the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel, who lobbied for the Magna-led takeover of Opel, raised her concern over GM's decision with U.S. President Barack Obama. In a telephone conversation with Merkel late on Wednesday, Obama said he had not been involved in the surprise decision by the GM board which has angered the German government, representatives of both sides said.
"The Chancellor made clear that the German government would urge General Motors to present a new plan as quickly as possible and to repay bridge financing by the end of November," said the spokesman in a statement.
Hesse state Premier Roland Koch, one of the biggest advocates of Magna's bid, told rallying workers at Opel headquarters on Thursday that he would fight for the firm.
"We want Opel to continue to exist," he said, warning GM not to "maximise profits by taking German workers hostage."
Several workers said they did not believe the company could preserve its European arm, blaming it for incompetence.