Ford to restart car production in Belgium on Monday

FRANKFURT, March 15 Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:59pm EDT

FRANKFURT, March 15 (Reuters) - U.S. carmaker Ford plans to restart European production of the Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy vehicles in Belgium on Monday after a four month stoppage, in part because of worker unrest.

Ford had said late in October it would shut its Genk plant in eastern Belgium and transfer the manufacture of about 120,000 cars annually to a plant in Valencia, resulting in the loss of about 4,300 jobs by the end of 2014.

Now a majority of employees paid by the hour have voted in favour of a union deal that allows Ford to go through with the cuts, the U.S. carmaker can soon start building around 800 cars in two shift operation every day at the plant.

"We fully recognise that this has been a difficult time for everyone at the Ford Genk plant, our suppliers and the local community," said Philippe Verbeeck, Operations Manager at Ford Genk, in a statement on Friday.

Ford said the move was an "important step towards rebuilding dealer stocks" and reaffirmed its plan to continue making cars in Genk through the end of next year, so long as "a return to normal working is achieved".

The news came as German trade union IG Metall said on Friday that workers in two of the four German plants at Ford's competitor Opel, a unit of General Motors, agreed to a restructuring that includes a wage freeze.

Workers at Opel's Bochum plant, where car production is scheduled to cease at the end of 2016, have yet to vote on the deal as negotiations over investment pledges continue. A date has not yet been set.

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