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Suitors pledge to keep British jobs

LONDON, May 28 – Britain\’s Business Secretary Peter Mandelson on Thursday said the firms vying to buy General Motors\’ ailing European operations have promised to safeguard British jobs.

Mandelson told BBC News that Canadian auto parts maker Magna International and Italian auto giant Fiat had given him "a categorical assurance" that "they will see a continued commitment to production and employment by Vauxhall here in the UK."
GM\’s Vauxhall brand employs 5,000 people at two main plants in Britain.

Mandelson said he was following the progress of negotiations "very carefully indeed."

He added: "Both bids envisage a continued commitment to Vauxhall, but equally both bids involve a change to the company\’s operating divisions, not just here but in Germany and other European countries as well.

"These are talks we will have with them once we know the outcome of the negotiations between the headquarters in the US and these two bidders, and I think we will not have to wait too long before we know what that outcome is."

Meanwhile talks on the future of General Motors\’ German unit Opel broke down amid acrimony between Germany and the United States on Thursday as fears mounted for tens of thousands of jobs across Europe.

The marathon negotiations were aimed at finding a suitable buyer for GM\’s struggling European operations, with the German government willing to offer billions of euros (dollars) in loan guarantees to any potential investor.

Britain and Belgium have pressed Germany not to strike a deal that would protect German workers at the expense of employees elsewhere.

"It\’s crucial that we don\’t allow any other government to drive through a plan which reflects only one country\’s interests," Tony Woodley, joint leader of Britain\’s biggest union Unite said on Thursday.

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"We also need to make sure that we put British money up in the way that the Germans have done and the Spanish will do. Britain needs to play its part to secure a future for jobs at (the two Vauxhall plants in) Luton and Ellesmere Port," Woodley added in a statement.

GM employs 55,000 people Europe-wide, including around 7,000 in Spain, 4,700 in Britain at Vauxhall, 4,000 in Sweden at Saab, 3,600 in Poland, 2,600 in Belgium and 1,800 in Italy.

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