FRANKFURT -- Talks over how General Motors can lop 500 million euros ($652 million) from fixed costs in Europe could take weeks to resolve as labour leaders reject forced layoffs or deep pay cuts, union officials said on Friday.
A month of talks has failed to yield an agreement so far, and it remains unclear whether any deal will emerge before the year-end holidays, they said, dismissing any hope that an accord could be ready by Monday's board meeting at GM unit Adam Opel.
"It may well last a few more weeks," IG Metall metalworkers union spokesman Hartmut Oertel said.
The world's biggest carmaker said last month it planned to cut up to 12,000 jobs in Europe -- roughly a fifth of the workforce -- over two years to lower its break-even point in a region where it has not made money since 1999.
"The central point is still how we can rule out forced layoffs," Opel works council head Klaus Franz told Reuters. German-based Opel stands to take the brunt of the job cuts.
Should GM offer to forego involuntary redundancies -- as Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes division have done in Germany -- workers are prepared to consider a range of options to save costs, Franz said.
"When it comes to preserving jobs, we have no taboos in our heads. But wage agreements are sacred cows for us," he said, referring to sector-wide pay deals that set minimum terms for German employers.
Union sources say one alternative to sweeping job cuts could be spinning off about 6,000 jobs -- half of them at GM's engine plant in Kaiserslautern -- into a new company that could stand alone or be put into a joint venture with a partner.
"What is important is that the conditions are right," Oertel said, for instance that Opel would sign long-term contracts with the new entity.
"If we found a partner and can do business with third parties, that is a good solution," Franz said, but he stressed that such outsourcing was just one possibility under discussion and that no decisions had yet been made.