'A company that only makes money is not good business'. pThis phrase from Henry Ford does not appear to be an inspiration for Stephen Odell, the current CEO of Ford Europe. Money seems to be the only reason for its industrial policy, as shownby the announced plant closures in Genk and Southampton (UK).The announcement on October 24 of the plant closures and the layoffs of 4500 workers in Belgium and 500 in the UK are another nail in the coffin of the European automotive sector.

Late on the night of Sunday, February 26, twenty black hooded strongmen – so-called security guards of an unknown company – were escorted out of the Meister Benelux engineering plant by the police. They had arrived from Germany (!) earlier that day driving vans and trucks. Armed with baseball bats, rubber truncheons, teargas sprays and bulletproof jackets, they entered the company with the aim of organising the delivery of car parts to the automotive industry in Germany.

On January 30 the three Belgian trade unions called a 24-hour general strike in both the public and private sectors. It was the first general strike since 1993. The immediate background was the public sector general strike on December 22 against the austerity measures of the new Socialist Party government led by Elio Di Rupo.

In reaction to a recent protest by street cleaners in Brussels, the bosses complained that, ‘If every reform provokes such a strong opposition, we will never be able to move forward.” In response to this one of the workers involved in the protest, speaking on TV, said, “What else are we supposed to do? Do you want us to go for a nice walk through the city or organise a little picnic? We have to show that we are angry. Those on the streets today are not kids. They are angry workers and they are damned right to be doing what they have done.”

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