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Ford’s Genk Plant Remains Shut on Strikes at Suppliers
An agreement between Ford and unions approved by workers a week ago failed to result in a resumption of auto assembly after protesters blocked an adjacent supplier area, cutting off the flow of parts, said Adrian Schmitz, a spokesman for the carmaker’s European operations in Cologne, Germany.
“We have an agreement with unions and are determined to implement that agreement to restart work at Genk,” Schmitz said by phone. With the factory closed, Ford is seeking to meet vehicle demand from existing stocks, he said.
Ford hasn’t shipped a vehicle from Genk since saying Oct. 24 that the plant will shut for good in 2014, Mark Truby, another Ford of Europe spokesman, said by phone. Worker walkouts compounded the effects of scheduled suspensions in carmaking because of a shrinking European market, Schmitz said. The permanent shutdown is part of an effort to end losses in Europe that may exceed $1.5 billion a year in 2012 and 2013.
The carmaker also plans to shut a van plant in Southampton, England, this year along with a stamping facility in Dagenham, on the outskirts of London. The measures will lead to the loss of 6,200 jobs, or 13 percent of Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford’s workforce in Europe.
The agreement with Genk labor leaders was slated to allow Ford restart production Jan. 9 and ramp up output to 1,000 vehicles a day at the factory, which builds the Mondeo mid-sized sedan and the S-Max and Galaxy minivans, according to unions. The accord outlines extra money paid to workers in exchange for Ford building and shipping vehicles, spokesman Truby said.
Ford is in separate talks with unions about terms for shuttering the site.
About 100 people, including employees of Ford suppliers, gathered outside the town hall in Genk yesterday, preventing three regional union leaders from leaving for several hours, a spokeswoman for the city’s police said.
The officials were there for meetings with representatives of four Ford suppliers. The mayor of Genk intervened and defused the situation without police action. No threats were made, the spokeswoman said.
Officials from the ACV, ABVV and ACLVB unions didn’t respond to e-mails or phone messages seeking comment. De Morgen newspaper reported on the incident yesterday on its website