"The closure is of course a disaster" - Genk Mayor

"The closure is of course a disaster" - Genk Mayor

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Genk is to organise a "loudest shift" for tomorrow (18 December) with the city's mayor branding Ford's decision to end production after five decades "a disaster" for the region.

The US automaker is pulling out of Genk as much production shifts to Valencia in Spain, with the move triggering 4,300 immediate redundancies and potentially thousands more as supply chain effects are factored in.

Firefighters, police, churches and mosques, will create two minutes of noise to mark the end of Ford production that comes days after a massive national strike in Belgium brought most public transport to a complete standstill.

"It is the end of five decades of prosperity in our region," Genk mayor, Wim Dries, told just-auto from Belgium. "The closure is of course a disaster.

"What should we do at at the end of production? Tomorrow will be the last production - it is the loudest shift.

"It is a moment of a little anger, but we say let's hear from you and make noise."

Even a last minute effort by Punch Metals to secure 200 stamping jobs at Genk, was thwarted by Ford, which deemed the supplier's plan unviable, but the Genk Mayor is not entirely pessimistic regarding his city and region's future.

"It is a start of a new future and we want to go for that future - we are agile," he said. "There have already been a lot of activities to replace them [unemployed] - 800 of them have work but it still means 5,000 people directly lose their jobs.

"We will have to fight for every job. Together with all the governments [regional and federal] we are working on different plans and we hope we can go after small and medium companies.

"Of course we are in an economic difficult time. There won't be any company opening on 1 January with 6,000 [jobs]."

The mayor added there were "three or four leads" for other companies to enter the Genk site, including those in logistics and retail, with Ford also telling just-auto it was continuing to work with the Flanders government, including engaging a specialist consultant with experience in restructuring actions, such as at the ex-Philips site regeneration in Hasselt.

The noise will focus on Genk's city square tomorrow but will also be heard in other cities in the Limburg province, which is enduring its second seismic jobs shock following the mines closures 20 years ago.