Volkswagen AG said Friday that up to
3,000 workers would be able to produce the latest Audi model at its
Belgian plant as of 2009, partly compensating for thousands of
Belgian job cuts announced last week.
``Both sides agree that this plant has a future,'' said
Volkswagen chairman Martin Winterkorn.
He said more than 100,000 of the A1 car could be produced at the
plant, guaranteeing that 3,000 of the current labor force of 5,000
He stressed part of the surviving work force might have to be
employed as subcontractors.
Volkswagen management made the announcement following talks with
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who was looking for strict
guarantees that the Volkswagen plant and thousands of jobs would be
able to survive.
``We need 100 per cent security before we can say everything is
all right,'' Verhofstadt told reporters.
``Let us first turn this into reality and celebrate afterward.
And not the other way around,'' he said.
Union reaction was guardedly optimistic.
``We are already glad we have a plan that we can work toward,''
said spokesman Guy Danneel.
Workers at the plant went on strike last week following that
announcement that Volkswagen would halt production of its Golf model
at the plant, resulting in the loss of around 3,500 jobs.
Volkswagen has not confirmed reports that it will shift more
production of its Polo model to the Belgian plant.
The factory, which has been affected by labor action for two
weeks, currently produces 204,000 vehicles per year, 190,000 of
which are Golf models.
The announcement to cut Golf production came as a surprise to
unions and the government and despite Friday's promises, some
``This can be turned into reality, if certain issues are dealt
with,'' said Verhofstadt.
Winterkorn was more confident: ``We took a major step forward,''
Both sides will still have to negotiate how to fill the time gap
between losing Golf production and the introduction of the A1 model.
Winterkorn said investments for the new A1 line in Brussels could
already start in 2008.
The government is making every possible effort to keep Belgium's
carmaking sector intact.
A Ford factory in the eastern city of Genk shed 3,000 jobs three
years ago and 3,100 jobs were lost in 1997 when Renault shut its
plant just outside Brussels.