Hundreds of workers are blocking the gates to Ford's Genk, Belgium, factory in order to protest the automaker's decision to transfer production to Spain and close the facility in early 2014.
The workers take turns guarding the gates outside of their work hours. Since the workforce is split into several different shifts, there are always at least 200 workers blocking the gates at any given time, making it impossible for delivery trucks to enter or leave the factory grounds.
The union leaders in charge of the protest explained that blocking access to the factory is a way to put pressure on Ford management in both the United States and Germany. Body panels, molds and even assembly robots that are needed to build the new Fusion-based Mondeo are trapped inside the factory which will inevitably cause production delays at other Ford plants in Spain and in Germany.
The protests have generally been peaceful but tensions escalated in the night from Wednesday to Thursday when a S-Max minivan was set on fire in front of the main gate.
Union leaders and members of Ford's top brass are scheduled to meet later today to discuss several key matters, including what the workers can expect from their severance packages. According to Belgian radio station RTL, a worker who has spent most of his or her career with Ford can expect a maximum of €77,000, a figure which converts to roughly $100,000. Temporary workers or people who recently joined the company will evidently get a smaller check.
If union leaders are not satisfied with the outcome of today's negotiations, they are ready to camp out in front of the factory gates for several more days and nights to get their point across.
"We have electricity going to a mobile office that we set up outside. We also have tents and several small fires which will enable us to remain here as long as we see fit," said a spokesperson for ACV, one of Belgium's largest trade unions, in an interview with Nieuwsblad.