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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Opel restructuring talks should end by mid-Feb.

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Opel restructuring talks should end by mid-Feb.

DECEMBER 18, 2009 06:01 CET

RUESSELSHEIM, Germany (Reuters) -- Opel labor leader Klaus Franz said talks with General Motors Co.'s management over a plan for the future of its European unit should be finished by mid-February.

"We don't have a large time window before we have to have everything resolved," Franz said.

Asked if a management plan to halve Opel's expected 2009 loss to just 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) next year was realistic, Franz said: "Those are not my numbers but (I assume) they must exclude special effects," referring to charges related to 8,300 planned job cuts in Europe.

Franz said Opel's 2009 loss was 700 million to 900 million euros higher than it might have been had Opel already been restructured due to repeated delays in cutting jobs.

Labor's demands that Opel's closure-threatened plant in Antwerp, Belgium, should be kept open and that there should be no forced layoffs remain in dispute, he said, adding that another obstacle is whether GM would agree to reduce the 5 percent royalty Opel pays its parent company for every car sold.

Franz is in talks with GM over offering 265 million euros in wage concessions for the 50,000 employees at Opel and British sister brand Vauxhall.

In exchange, he wants GM to not close Antwerp, trim excess layers of management, and present a sustainable business case for Opel including investment to fill gaps in its model range.

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