DUESSELSDORF, Germany (Reuters) -- Staff outraged by General Motors' plan to slash up to 12,000 jobs in Europe stopped work at a German plant in Bochum on Friday as the shockwave from GM's move swept through Germany's car sector.
Starting with Thursday's overnight shift, workers left assembly lines idle to discuss what the drastic cutbacks would mean for them, union officials said.
"The colleagues are using their right to get information and are informing themselves about the future of the factory and their jobs," said Rainer Einenkel, deputy head of the Adam Opel AG plant's works council.
"We are of one mind that we will not accept 4,000 job cuts, and we demand a future for this plant."
Workers also blocked entrances, preventing shipments of parts from getting through.
Other GM plants in Germany were operating normally.
One union leader said workers were upset that management had given them no concrete information about GM's plans for the factory, built in 1962 and one of the company's least modern facilities.
"I have been at Opel since 1962, and I have never seen anything like this," he said. "Everything here is out of control."
The world's biggest carmaker said on Thursday it intended to cut its 63,000-strong European workforce by nearly a fifth over the next two years to save 500 million euros ($618.9 million) a year and address chronic losses in the region.
Union sources said 4,000 jobs were earmarked to go at Bochum, which made 218,300 Zafira vans and 67,500 Astra compacts in 2003. Each full day of missed production costs around 1,000 vehicles in lost output, a GM spokesman said.
GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said after an Opel board meeting that the restructuring plan would move ahead.
"We will do our utmost to implement the plan within a few weeks," he said, adding strikes were "not helpful".
Klaus Franz, workers' representative on Opel's board, said layoffs had to be held to a minimum, and no plants could close.
"But I have no illusions," he told reporters. "There will be personnel reductions in the end."
Volume carmakers in western Europe are battling stark currency headwinds, high labor costs, intense competition in weak car markets and an onslaught from leaner Asian rivals.
Ford's luxury brand Jaguar is cutting 1,150 jobs in Britain in a bid to return to profit, and Volkswagen is trying to push through a 30-percent reduction in German labor costs by 2011 in tough talks with unions.
Banca IMI car sector analyst Sabine Blumel said GM had to blame itself for at least some of its problems in Europe, where it has not made money since 1999.
"It all boils down to product positioning. Ford, GM and Fiat all have the problem that they have middle-of-the-road products that are losing out to the polarization into premium products and those that are good value, cheap and cheerful," she said.
German auto workers are also the most expensive in the world, which brutally exposes carmakers when pricing pressure mounts amid manufacturing overcapacity and sluggish sales.
"If you want to have a workforce in Germany, than you are bound to be active in the premium market," she said, noting German-based BMW and Porsche were thriving because they can charge high prices for their luxury cars.