Ford shuts Belgium plant, workers’ party protests

Following is a statement from the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB).

Today, Wednesday, Oct. 24, the hard news arrived: The Ford factory in Genk closes shop, and 4,300 jobs at Ford will be eliminated, while another 6,000 jobs will disappear indirectly. The municipality of Genk is located in the Belgian province of Limburg, in the midst of a region that was already devastated with the closure of the coal mines some 20 years ago.

At the beginning of 2010, Opel announced the end of its production in its Antwerp plant, resulting in the loss of 2,600 jobs. Four months ago, there was the closure of the PSA (Peugeot-Citroën) factory in Aulnay, France, and the elimination of 8,000 jobs. Everywhere, the difficult situation of the European automobile industry is invoked as the reason: too many plants for too small a demand and too high losses.

But the Workers’ Party of Belgium demands: “Why do the workers have to pay for this overcapacity? They are not responsible for this crisis. They are not responsible for the anarchy of capitalist production, based on the search for profit for the few rather than on the satisfaction of the people’s needs.”

For the Limburg chairman of the PTB, Stany Nimmegeers, the situation is clear: “For years on end now, the workers have made sacrifices of all sorts, supposedly in order to assure the plant’s future. In the latest collective bargaining agreement of 2010, they even lost 12 percent of their salary. It has been 50 years now that the workers of Genk have produced cars of a very high quality, resulting in enormous profits for the shareholders.

“In 2011, Ford realized a record worldwide profit of 8 billion euro. Just like PSA and Opel, Ford wants to make the workers bear the brunt of the crisis. Since a consequence of this is a further decrease in their purchasing power and thus less consumption, there is even more overcapacity in the long run. Overcapacity is not a law of nature, but the result of disastrous economic policies.”

Stany Nimmegeers recounts that the Antwerp plant of Opel had been sold and that the management had refused to allow for a genuine restart of the factory. “In 50 years’ time, Ford has received such an amount of state subsidies, paid with the Belgian taxpayers’ money, and Ford has made such an amount of profit with the sweat of the Limburg workers, that this plant in fact belongs to the workers. The public authorities need to seize the plant.”

The PTB has just reinforced its presence in Genk, obtaining 8.6 percent of the vote and three councilors at the recently concluded municipal elections. With all its force, the party will support the actions of the trade unions at Ford Genk, starting with a 24-hour strike in the only Ford unit in Limburg that currently remains in function. n

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