Ford’s largest union at its doomed Genk plant has cautioned unemployment could soar by as much as 30% in the region following the US automaker’s decision to shutter its plant in 2014.
Some 4,300 jobs will go at the Belgian plant itself with up to 10,000 redundancies in total once the impact on the supply chain is taken into account.
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 huge lay-offs.
“We are living in a small province of Limburg, where a company like Ford has a major, unforeseeable impact on economic life,” ABVV union provincial president, Rohnny Champagne, told just-auto. “There will be, maybe, a raise in unemployment of perhaps 30% for the next five to ten years.
“We had the closure of the mines in Limburg in the late 1980s, but we had Ford, we were 15,000 Ford employees some 30 years ago. How will we ever recuperate?”
The socialist labour body leader also revealed he had spoken to his UK colleagues in the Unite union, which has had to deal with its own closure of the Ford Transit plant at Southampton and the stamping and tooling operations at its Dagenham complex, east of London with a total loss of around 1,400 jobs.
However, given the age of Unite Southampton employees and the possibility of what appear to be generous Ford redundancy terms, concerted action seems unlikely.
“I asked Unite if we could set up some European thing, but [they were] honest enough to tell me in Southampton ‘we have a big group of employees who are 50 and older,'” said Champagne.
“I saw Roger Maddison [Unite car industry national officer] a few weeks ago in the Works Council in Cologne and he repeated that to me.”
ABVV says it has sent a letter to Ford in an attempt to restart negotiations concerning Genk’s future, although there seems little chance of the automaker revising its plans now.
“The unions gave a letter written by one of their lawyers,” Ford Belgium told just-auto. “We respect the opinion of the unions, but of course, we do not agree.”
Champagne added: “We are trying to get them to the table and treat us on an equal basis. “Once we are there, then we will find a solution.”