BELGIUM: Ford Genk union ratchets up redundancy claim
Ford of Europe's largest Belgian union is seeking a substantially improved redundancy package from the automaker as it looks to close its Genk plant with the direct loss of 4,300 jobs.
The ABVV labour body says Ford initially offered EUR65,000 for its workers with around 26 years seniority, a figure that subsequently rose to EUR77,000, but the union is asking for EUR175,000.
"The gap is some EUR100,000 - the CFO of [Ford] Europe told us they will try to boost their figures but he immediately said at the same time the expectations of the Genk guys are much too high," ABVV Limberg region leader, Rohnny Champagne, told just-auto outside the Ministry of Labour in Brussels today (28 February), where the negotiations are taking place.
"Our University in Genk calculated it could be 11,300 jobs lost due to the closure of Ford. What is hard for us to understand is our politicians are doing nothing about it.
"They don't create an environment for factories to invest in Belgium. The only thing they can do is create another working group, which will talk about reduced costs, but nothing changes."
Champagne expressed pessimism both sides could find common ground, but there may be a glimmer of hope in the appointment of an independent mediator from the Belgian government.
"First, it is trying to find a solution, right here, right now, then we have to put it to a vote," said Champagne. "The deal has to be done through arbitration.
"You [Ford] can close the plant here and now and I am a little bit afraid that will be their position by the end of today. Why otherwise would they ask for mediation? I was a little bit surprised by that - it is not a pleasant situation [for] either [of] us. It is time for all parties to find a solution."
Ford staff more than 45 years old, will have access to the Belgian system of retraining through the VDAB body following redundancy and attendance at its courses is a compulsory part of the six-month redundancy package after losing their jobs.
"They will train you to at least write a new CV," said Champagne. "Most of our guys have never written a CV since they have always worked at Ford."
Ford was not immediately available for comment.