Belgian unions are organising a huge demonstration and a European Works Council meeting as they look to react to Ford's announcement it plans to close its Genk plant with the loss of 4,300 jobs.

The decision has rocked labour bodies in Belgium as well as the regional and federal governments and comes just two years after General Motors closed its Antwerp site with more than 1,000 redundancies.

There will be a European Works Council meeting on 8 November and 9 November in Cologne ahead of a mass demonstration in Genk on 11 November, expected to attract several thousand protesters.

Subsequent to those events will be the first meeting between Belgian unions and local Ford management on 13 November, as both sides look to agree on how to proceed before the Genk plant is due to close at the end of 2014.

"They [staff] are still shocked," Ford Genk's largest union, ACV union general secretary, Walter Cnop, told just-auto from Brussels. "We had a meeting with the Flemish and federal governments last Friday (26 October) - we were invited by the Prime Minister.

"First of all [they gave] their absolute support in everything we will do at the social level. Secondly we search for new possible investors in Genk. They are fully aware they should install a small group of specialists trying to convince investors.

"We have people who are extremely productive and willing to work hard. I sincerely hope we find someone willing to invest in these thousands of families. I am aware and I am convinced it will not be easy, not at all."

Ford chairman and CEO, Stephen Odell, insisted to just-auto its decision to close Genk was 'absolutely necessary' given the huge over-capacity currently plaguing Europe.

The automaker also highlighted its investment in new development with 15 new products in five years.

As well as its Genk site, Ford will also close its Transit site at Southampton in the UK, as well as the tooling and stamping work at Dagenham.

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