Vauxhall car plant 'saved by GM' after new labour deal
General Motors will confirm within hours that Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant has been saved, securing the jobs of 2,100 staff, the BBC has learned.The US car giant will announce that the next generation of its Astra model will be built at the plant from about 2015.
The decision will also mean hundreds more jobs will be created at the plant as it moves from two shifts to three.
Many had feared that with GM's European unit sustaining heavy losses, Ellesmere Port would close.
But the plans are conditional on workers agreeing to a new labour deal, put to staff over the last few days.
A final group of workers are expected to give their verdict on the deal overnight, which will pave the way for the formal announcement later in the morning.
The decision amounts to a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of the plant.
Opel woes Vauxhall is the UK arm of Opel, GM's European unit. Since 1999, Opel has lost $11bn (£7bn), almost a quarter of it during the last two or three years.
Last year, Opel lost $750m.
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The deal will end the long tradition in car manufacturing of plant closures in the summer and during Christmas”
Analysts say that its carmaking capacity is out of step with demand. The company has been working on a restructuring plan for months.Now it is thought that workers in Germany may be hit with the possible closure of GM's Opel factory in Bochum.
Bochum produces 30 cars an hour over three shifts a day. Ellesmere Port produces 47 cars an hour over two shifts a day - a company record.
But Germany could yet benefit from an expected decision to move production of its Chevrolet brand from Asia to Europe.
Open 24/7 Workers at the plant have been voting on a new labour deal covering pay and terms and conditions.
There will be a new three-year pay deal. Workers will also face a change in normal hours due to the change in shift patterns.
It is understood that the plan will keep the plant operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
That will end the long tradition in car manufacturing of plant closures in the summer and during Christmas.
Ellesmere Port plant was thought to be vulnerable because it has traditionally been politically difficult to close plants in mainland Europe.
Analysts also say it is simply cheaper and easier to let workers go in the UK than elsewhere in Western Europe.
But the willingness of unions and workers at the plant to agree to more flexible working arrangements is thought to have played an important role in GM's decision, as has the government's engagement on the issue in recent months.
In February, Business Secretary Vince Cable flew to the US and met with GM's chief executive Dan Akerson and vice-chairman Steve Girsky.
He made the case for why GM should invest in the UK for the long term. Sources suggest the meeting may have have played an important role in the company's ultimate decision to back the UK.
The government insists that it has not offered the company any up-front cash.
But it has confirmed there are several mechanisms - including the Regional Growth Fund and the advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative - that the company may be able to access.