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Restructuring at Van Hool is largest collective redundancy announced in six years

The bus manufacturer is facing financial difficulties and today announced it will cut more than 1,100 jobs over the next few years. It is the largest such announcement in the private sector since the beginning of 2018. However, Flemish Labour minister Jo Brouns hopes to avert a mass joblessness.

“If the banks are on board with the plan and if an external partner is found who is willing to work with Van Hool on a relaunch, then the Flemish government is also prepared to invest additional funds in the ailing bus company,” said Brouns in response to Van Hool’s announcement on Monday morning. The redundancies are only part of the management’s restructuring plan to save the company.

Large sums of money

Van Hool also urgently needs to secure additional funding to avoid bankruptcy. The unions are talking about finding 45 million euros by the end of this month. “There is talk of large sums of money’, Brouns told VRT NWS. “We have said from day one that we will do everything possible to enable a relaunch under the conditions that have been set.”

Flemish minister president Jan Jambon (N-VA) and Brouns will meet with the banks, Van Hool’s management and the trade unions on Monday afternoon to determine what is necessary for a viable relaunch of the bus manufacturer.

This is a colossal strategic blunder

Meanwhile, the Flemish opposition parties have reacted with indignation. “This is a colossal strategic blunder,” said the far-right Vlaams Belang. The socialist party Vooruit is also critical, arguing that the problems at Van Hool show that insufficient attention has been paid to the future of public transport in recent years. “It is now up to the Flemish government to find a sustainable solution together with Van Hool,” the party said. The far-left PVDA party is also calling on the Flemish government to invest in the company.

Electric buses

Earlier this year, it was announced that public transport company De Lijn had ordered 92 electric buses from Chinese bus manufacturer BYD after the latter came out on top in a public tender. The news came as a great surprise to Van Hool, having worked with De Lijn several times in the past. At the time, it was already clear that the company would have to make further cuts.

We will do everything we can to find alternative employment for these people

The Flemish public employment service VDAB and its partners are ready to help those who lose their jobs at Van Hool. “We will do everything we can to find alternative employment for these people,” said Bjorn Cuyt, director of VDAB Antwerp.

According to the director, there are certainly opportunities for these people, as there are many vacancies. “But first, the employees must be given the opportunity to process these redundancies, and the social negotiations must take place in peace,” Cuyt said.

The announcement of Van Hool’s intention to implement collective redundancies is the largest such announcement in the private sector since early 2018, when supermarket chain Carrefour announced plans to make 1,233 employees redundant.

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