News Column

Ford to Shed 1,400 Jobs in Britain; Picketing in Belgium

Oct. 25, 2012

US carmaker Ford said Thursday it would shed 1,400 jobs in Britain and that its losses in Europe this year were expected to exceed 1.5 billion dollars, a day after announcing a factory closure in Belgium.

Two British facilities are to close next year - Ford's assembly plant in Southampton and stamping and tooling operations in Dagenham.

That would raise Ford job losses in Europe to 5,700. On Wednesday the company said it aimed to close a plant in Genk, Belgium by the end of 2014 with a loss of 4,300 jobs.

Ford said the cuts would reduce its E uropean output, excluding Russia, by 18 per cent, saving the company 450 to 500 million dollars annually.

"We will address the crisis in Europe with a laser focus on new products, a stronger brand and increased cost efficiency," Ford chief executive Alan Mulally said.

Meanwhile, Volvo Car Corporation announced that it would reduce its production in the Belgian city of Ghent in 2013, where 300 workers on short-term contracts would lose their jobs.

"We have had a very positive trend during a number of years, with 2011 as a record year," said Volvo's manufacturing manager Lars Wrebo. "Now we see customer demand declining and we need to rebalance our production output."

Volvo employs around 5,200 people in Ghent, where its S60, XC60, C30 and V40 models are produced.

In Britain, union leaders accused Ford of "betraying" its workforce with the announcement, which had been handled "disgracefully."

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said that only a few months ago Ford had promised staff at Southampton that a new Transit van model would be built there from 2014.

Union leaders said workers at the plant, where Ford's "white vans" have been produced since 1972, were close to tears on hearing the news. Ford employs a total of around 11,400 workers in Britain.

Business secretary Vince Cable said the news would be "very disappointing" for workers.

"Our priority will be to help the workforce and we will be working with Ford to get them into new jobs as quickly as possible," said Cable.

In Genk, factory staff had suspended work and were preventing finished cars or car parts from leaving the premises, a union representative told Belga.

"I guess there are some 10,000 vehicles here. So that represents serious capital. On top of that, there are also many parts," said Erik Verheyden of the FGTB union. The car parts were needed for production in Germany and Spain, he said.

Ford said negotiations with employee representatives were under way.

Trade unionists also picketed Ford's test-driving site in the town of Lommel in northern Belgium in protest at the announced factory closure.

The Lommel test-driving course, where new models are tried out in various road conditions, is Ford's most important in Europe, according to a company website. Around 350 people work at the site, which is operational around the clock.

Employees at the course had agreed not to work out of solidarity with their colleagues in Genk. The strike is due to last 24 hours.

Belgian federal and regional government representatives were due to discuss the Genk closure at a meeting later on Thursday.

For more coverage on the automotive industry, please see HispanicBusiness' Auto Channel

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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