* Plant employs 4,300 workers
* Pressure for plant closures growing on overcapacity
* Ford set to report Q3 earnings on Oct. 30
* Mondeo likely to be produced elsewhere-sources
By Philip Blenkinsop and Laurence Frost
BRUSSELS/PARIS, Oct 22 Ford called an
emergency meeting with unions at its assembly plant in Genk,
Belgium, amid mounting expectations that the U.S. automaker is
preparing to close the factory.
Ford summoned staff representatives to a meeting with
European executives at 0700 GMT on Wednesday without providing
an agenda, officials from three unions said on Monday.
"No one is allowed to tell us anything," said an official
with the ABVV Metaal union. "We're assuming it will be a very
A Ford spokesman declined to comment on the meeting or its
purpose. "We will not comment on discussions with our unions,"
The plant in Genk, eastern Belgium, employs 4,300 workers to
assemble the Mondeo mid-size car and Galaxy and S-MAX minivans.
All three models are approaching the end of their current life
Pressure for European plant closures has been growing as the
region's protracted auto-market slump racks up ever deeper
losses from idled sites. Ford doubled its European loss forecast
to $1 billion in July and said action was needed to "decrease
our production to match real demand".
Ford is due to present third-quarter financial results to
investors and reporters on Oct. 30.
Unions in Genk had said last month they were more optimistic
about the plant's future after Ford set a date to start
production of the new Mondeo next October.
According to sources with knowledge of production plans,
however, Ford is prepared to wind down the facility and build
the Mondeo elsewhere. The tentative start date is not a reprieve
for Genk, said the sources, who asked not to be identified
because the plans were confidential.
Genk's closure, if confirmed, would be Belgium's second car
factory decommissioning in two years, after General Motors
scrapped its Antwerp site in 2010. It would leave the
country with two assembly plants, Volvo's in Ghent and
Volkswagen's Audi facility in Brussels.
The scale of Ford's European losses has fuelled speculation
that it will join PSA Peugeot Citroen and Opel in
announcing a major plant closure.
Paris-based Peugeot unveiled plans in July to cut 8,000
additional jobs and close a domestic plant in Aulnay, near the
French capital. Opel is in talks with unions on a restructuring
plan leading to the eventual closure of its factory in Bochum,
In a recent research note, New York-based UBS analyst Colin
Langan predicted that Ford would move to close a major plant in
Europe, where its factories are running at 52 percent of maximum
output on average this year.
"Ford is most likely to close its assembly plant in Genk,"
Langan said, citing the factory's "consistently low utilization
Shuttering the Belgian factory would cost an estimated $1.1
billion euros and generate annual savings of $730 million,
Langan also said.