FRANKFURT -- General Motors hustled to restore normal production in Europe as managers and labor leaders met Thursday to discuss plans for sweeping job cuts that had triggered staff protests and disrupted factories.
Crucial parts needed to make Astra compact cars moved off the assembly line at an Adam Opel plant in the Bochum, Germany, after workers there voted on Wednesday to return to work, ending protests against possible layoffs that began last Thursday.
The flow of parts meant three other European factories that depend on Bochum could start gearing up again.
"Antwerp will be up and running by the end of the day, probably not full tilt but preparing for full production tomorrow," a GM Europe spokesman in Zurich, Switzerland, said.
A Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, England, should also be able to resume regular Astra output on Friday, he said. The Opel plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany, was returning to normal but idle on Thursday so that staff could reduce overtime they have worked.
In all, the disruptions reduced output by some 7,000 units, Opel said. That equates to some 1.8 percent of the new Astras sold in Europe last year.
WEEKS OF TALKS AHEAD
GM officials declined to provide details about the negotiations in Ruesselsheim.
GM said last week that it would cut its European work force by roughly a fifth, or by up to 12,000 jobs, over two years in a drive to save 500 million euros ($630 million) a year at European operations that last made a profit in 1999.
Juergen Peters, head of the IG Metall metalworkers union, told German TV on Wednesday night that the talks would be a "conflict-laden event."
He reiterated that workers want GM to promise to avoid forced layoffs and keep all of its Opel, Saab and Vauxhall plants open with a clear plan for the future.
GM declined comment on a report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that GM aimed to end the third shift and scale back development work at Ruesselsheim, eliminating 3,200 jobs.
"There are lots of options being discussed," the spokesman said, adding no quick agreement was expected. "We are talking about weeks rather than days."
GM Europe Chairman Fritz Henderson told reporters last week that it may be possible to save jobs if workers show flexibility about bringing down fixed costs that he said make GM uncompetitive given sluggish markets and intense price pressure.
"What we wish to do, and the target of this plan, is to reduce our costs by 500 million euros by 2006. It can be done, and it can be accomplished without closing plants," he said.