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European unions protest against Ford plant closures

1 November, 2012Unions mobilize in response to Ford Motor Co.'s bitter news last week that almost 6,000 workers in Belgium and the UK are to lose their jobs in the coming years as part of its announced restructuring of European operations.

On 24 October Ford confirmed its plans to close its car assembly plant in Genk, Belgium and transfer the production to Spain. One day later the company also revealed that it would close the Transit cab-chassis factory in Southampton and tooling and stamping units in Dagenham, United Kingdom.

The company says it removes overcapacities in Europe in order to address losses due to the shrinking car market in Western Europe. If implemented the Ford decision will cost the jobs of 4,300 workers in Belgium and 1,400 workers in UK.

Belgian unions announced mass rallies on 11 November in reply to the announced plans. This decision of Ford is the second major blow on automotive sector of the country since the beginning of October when General Motors decided to cut over 1,000 jobs in Antwerp.

Unite the Union, Britain's biggest union, blamed the company for “betrayal” of its loyal workforce. The Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the consequences would be devastating for the local communities all together affecting more than 10,000 jobs through the supply chains.

In order to address the issue of closures and restructuring in Europe in its full complexity the European trade unions representing autoworkers appealed to the European governing institutions in a statement adopted at the recent IndustriALL European Trade Union automotive meeting held on 30 October in Luxemburg.

"We call on the European institutions to address without delay a socially acceptable management of restructuring and the anticipation of change. A European framework should ensure that change is properly managed through anticipation and the social cost of restructuring limited," reads the statement.

The European group of automotive unions has also supported the earlier announced by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) anti-austerity day, the European Day of Action and Solidarity, planned on 14 November 2012.