Ford to pay $750 mln severance to workers at Belgium plant

Payout an average of $187,500 per worker

(Reuters) — Hourly workers at Ford Motor's plant in Genk, Belgium, will get $750 million in severance as part of a deal that allows the automaker to close that factory by the end of 2014, the company said in a regulatory filing on March 19.

Ford and the 4,000 hourly workers at the plant reached a deal last week that allows the U.S. automaker to go through with its plan to close the factory, which now builds the Mondeo sedan, known in the U.S. market as the Fusion.

Negotiations over severance pay between Ford and the plant's 300 salaried workers are under way. The $750 million cash payout comes to an average of $187,500 per hourly worker.

The per-worker severance payment is less than what General Motors spent in 2010 to close its factory in Antwerp, Belgium. GM paid about $527 million to the plant's 2,600 workers for an average payout of $202,700, GM filings show.

Ford announced in late October that it would be closing the Genk plant as well as two others in Britain, to stem its losses in Europe where an economic downturn has hurt demand for new cars.

Industry figures released on March 19 showed the European car market logged its worst February of sales in at least 23 years.

Ford and GM both recorded a roughly $1.8 billion loss in Europe in 2012. Ford expects to lose another $2 billion in the region this year. Chief Executive Alan Mulally has said Ford will not rule out further capacity cuts and other actions if the situation worsens in Europe.

In all, Ford plans to cut 18 per cent of its capacity in Europe. Ford will transfer the work now being done in Genk to its plant in Valencia, Spain.

Ford's decision triggered angry protests in Cologne, Germany, where Ford's European operations are based. In November, about 170 protesters burned tires and threw fireworks at police outside a Ford plant in Cologne.

Ford will log the severance payments as a special item, for accounting purposes. The expenses will be spread out over the next several quarters depending on the timing of the employees' departure, Ford said in its filing.

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