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Planned GM job cuts in Europe protested

BOCHUM, Germany -- A strike at a General Motors Corp. plant in Germany began to squeeze the company's European production yesterday as a lack of parts halted two other factories, while thousands of workers rallied against GM's plan to cut up to 12,000 jobs across the continent.

In Germany, which the company says will bear the brunt of the job cuts, about 20,000 workers and their supporters waved red union flags as they marched through the smokestack towns of Ruesselsheim, home to GM subsidiary Adam Opel AG, and Bochum, where a strike continued for a sixth day.

"If they think they can drive their bulldozer mentality through Europe, they are mistaken," Klaus Franz, Opel's chief employee representative, told demonstrators gathered at the main gate of the Ruesselsheim plant.

Bochum workers fear their aging Opel plant -- which has provided work even as the city's coal and steel jobs dwindled -- will be the worst hit. They have stayed off the job since GM detailed its plans Thursday, demanding assurances that no one will be fired and defying calls from the government and unions to return to work.

A letter to union leaders from GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster and Opel head Hans Demant said that the Bochum strike "massively endangers the goals of the upcoming negotiations and the future of the Bochum location."

In a conciliatory sign, Opel said yesterday that it had agreed with employee delegates to try to ensure the survival of its main plants in Germany -- including Bochum -- beyond 2010, while finding "socially acceptable" ways of cutting back the workforce.

Opel said a shortage of parts from Bochum stopped production yesterday at Ruesselsheim and in Antwerp, Belgium. Company spokesman Ulrich Weber said Bochum usually produced about 1,000 cars a day, while Ruesselsheim made nearly 900 and Antwerp around 1,100.

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