The Ellesmere Port car factory builds current models of the Astra, placing it in prime position to take on the build of the new vehicle, which would provide a major boost to its production volumes sold into a declining European automotive market.
Opel/Vauxhall plans to end production of the Astra at the Rüsselsheim site in Germany and split production between Ellesmere Port, which employs around 2,100 people, and its factory in Gliwice, Poland, from 2015.
Opel/Vauxhall lost £463m last year and despite claims from Unite the union that the Ellesmere Port plant site is one of the company’s highest performing factories, it was one of a number of sites the car firm was considering shutting down.
The European arm of General Motors is struggling from overcapacity with little or no growth in car sales expected this year. The firm is focused on reducing its level of manufacturing in Germany but employees in the country are not giving up without a fight.
Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug, works council chief, criticised management in front of a crowd of Opel workers and said that the company has failed to be open about its plans.
“The strategy of Opel seems to be to travel from factory to factory and put workers under pressure to make concessions so that it secures as great a sacrifice of wages as possible and toughen employment conditions across Europe,” he said.