Ford unions in Belgium say they have put the automaker’s Genk plant under “siege” as anger continues to mount following the manufacturer’s decision to completely shut the site with 4,300 job losses.
It appears no cars are leaving Genk at all, with unions also halting train movements, while Ford’s test centre at Lommel is equally blocked with pictures from Belgium showing a vehicle on fire outside its gates and considerable debris.
“We are blocking everything out of Genk – it is a siege,” ABVV Metaal provincial president Limburg, Rohnny Champagne, told just-auto on his way to the test centre at Lommel today (25 October).
“Today it is much too early to convince our guys to go back to work – once the emotions are gone I will try to convince them. We will see what will have to be done in the next few hours and days.”
This evening all three of Ford’s major Genk unions are to meet at a private location to try and establish a common front to fight the closure, which the Belgian government has estimated could cost nearly 10,000 jobs once the supply chain effects are taken into account.
One of the concrete ways in which ABVV says it could help is the establishment of a so-called ‘bridge pension,’ that would allow Ford employees to bring forward retirement dates.
Champagne met Flanders President Kris Peteers – in whose region Genk is situated – yesterday in Brussels for talks with the union claiming the senior politician expressed his disappointment with the coolness of Ford management who also met the Minister.
“Like some kind of American western, they arrived in five cars with [blacked out] windows,” said Champagne. “They drove into the car park and no-one had the opportunity to ask them questions.”
What also seems to have provoked the union’s ire is a meeting just five weeks ago in Cologne, where they received the impression production would continue at Genk.
“It is not about the possibility if [economic] things deteriorate,” said Champagne. “That is not what made us angry. What made us angry was the constant reassuring they would live up to their part of the contract.
“We have been playing our part by cutting our wages by 12% – I will try to squeeze every penny out of Ford – there are no rules any more.”