Volkswagen guarantees 2,200 jobs at Brussels plant

Volkswagen AG said Thursday it would guarantee 2,200 jobs at its Brussels plant, but employees would have to work longer hours without extra pay.

In return, the German car maker will keep the plant open after it phases out current production of its Golf model, building 84,000 cars a year in 2007 and the following two years before bumping up annual production to 100,000.

In a statement, Volkswagen said the plant would make Polos and Audis after 2008, including a new Audi small car. The factory would eventually concentrate on Audis, it said.

Workers representatives must agree on the new terms by mid-February, Volkswagen said. Talks will continue next week.

Volkswagen is asking employees to work a 38-hour week, saying this would keep the plant competitive and cut its wage bill by 20 percent.

Angry trade union members at the plant went on strike last month, after delays in negotiations on severance packages for those losing jobs at the plant, which current employs some 5,000 people. Other unions did not join the strike, which brought all production at the plant to a halt, reports AP.

The German carmaker is shifting Golf assembly to two German plants as part of a restructuring that could cost a further 20,000 jobs in Europe.

The job cuts came as a shock to the workers and to political leaders and was another big blow to efforts to keep Belgium's car-making sector intact.

A Ford plant in the eastern city of Genk shed 3,000 jobs four years ago, and 3,100 jobs were lost in 1997 when Renault shut its plant just outside Brussels.

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