Ford Genk job losses will be felt keenly in Belgium

Ford Genk job losses will be felt keenly in Belgium

Punch Metals says it could create around 200 stamping jobs at Ford's site in Genk as the automaker gears up for the imminent closure of the plant, making 4,300 staff redundant.

Union estimates put the current stamping workforce at nearer 400 employees, but news of interest by Punch will come as at least some relief for the Flemish government, which is taking a close interest in such a huge injection of unemployment in North-East Belgium.

“It is possibly 200 people, but more information on that, we don't have for the moment because discussions are ongoing,” a Punch spokesman told just-auto from the company's headquarters in Hamont-Achel, around 35km from Genk. “I can't give any indication of timing.

“Each government in each country supports new projects and investments and the Flemish government is in the same position.

"It might be possible for financial incentives.”

Genk is situated in the Limburg region of Belgium, which, much like the UK, endured a series of coal mine closures in the 1980s, leading the ABVV union to warn of the effects of such massive lay-offs.

Academic studies have previously put the impact of the 4,300 initial redundancies swelling to a possible 11,000, once supply chain headcount reduction is taken into account, with ABVV cautioning the unemployment rate in Limburg could soar to 30%.

The ABVV union says it has already had dialogue with the new Flemish government concerning the Genk situation, but it was “running out of time” before the imminent closure.

“Let's say four, maximum five weeks, production will end,” ABVV provincial president, Rhonny Champagne, told just-auto from Genk. “If something will happen, it has to go extremely fast.

“We will have to make up our minds – are we willing to take a risk with Punch or not? When [if] that is done, we need time to talk to the blue collar guys.”

Ford said it would not comment on any speculation.