Layoffs spark General Motors strike in Brazil

[SAO PAULO] Some 3,000 workers at a General Motors plant in Brazil went on an open-ended strike Friday over planned layoffs.

The metalworkers union at the plant in Sao Jose dos Campos in southeastern Sao Paulo state said the strikers had downed tools to protest the planned firing of 794 staff suspended in September but who resumed working last week.

Some 2,000 afternoon shift workers were set later Friday to decide if they would join the stoppage.

"The workers reject the GM proposal. There is no guarantee of the jobs being saved," said union general secretary Luiz Carlos Prastes.

Prastes said the stoppage was a response to the firm giving them an ultimatum to accept temporary layoffs or the automaker would impose job cuts, despite the company and the union havingagreed last August to retain the personnel concerned at least until the second half of this year.

Beyond the layoffs, GM had on February 2 unveiled an initial week-long offer of voluntary redundancies which was extended.

The plant's 5,300-strong workforce produces the S10 and Trailblazer models.

General Motors said the union had not informed it of Friday's stoppage, a legal requirement in Brazil, and that the union was misrepresenting its proposals to shed staff.

Last month, Volkswagen scrapped plans to slash 800 of 13,000 jobs at their plant in Anchieta, near Sao Paulo, following a ten-day strike.

Volkswagen justified the layoffs by noting that Brazil's auto market, the world's fifth largest, had endured two years of poor growth, taking a heavy toll on its balance sheet.

Lower sales and a slump in 2013 exports saw production drop 15 per cent.

Brazil's auto dealership association Fenabrave noted a sales slide of 7.15 per cent last year to 3.5 million units, the sector's worst showing in five years.


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