Belgian unions say recent academic studies are predicting up to 11,000 direct and indirect jobs could go following the closure of Ford's Genk plant next year, with prospects appearing gloomy other manufacturing industries can soak up those made redundant.

Earlier indications centred around 10,000 staff losing their jobs, but the ABVV labour body closely involved with negotiating redundancy packages for the 4,300 employees directly employed at Genk, is now citing a university that has added 1,000 to that number. 

"We still have a huge problem when the place will finally close at the end of next year [as] that money will be gone faster than anyone is imagine [ing]," ABVV union Limburg region leader, Rhonny Champagne, told just-auto in Brussels. "For a lot of our guys, the average age will be 48.

"Our local university calculated a loss of jobs of more than 11,000 direct and indirect, with Ford, four suppliers, other suppliers, [while] the bakery and butcher will all lose clients.

"One of the big challenges will be the re-employment of our low-skilled employees. There is no other manufacturing. Twenty years ago we produced the most cars worldwide per capita - we had five automotive plants - now we are down to one and a little one."

The issue of huge unemployment potentially stalking the Limburg region of Belgium will be brought into stark relief next year with the onset of national and European elections, while Champagne claims politicians are now attempting to assuage the situation.

"Some of the them in the Flemish government are trying to build an image [they are the] saviour of the future of our province," said Champagne.

"We need to do things now and we are losing time. What irritates us is we are not included in that kind of solution with the government. It is a little bit weird because without us, there are no hands to do the job.

"So at least, I would expect them to inform us, to consult us and then settle to whatever they think is best."