The car company, Ford, announces the closure of two of its UK production facilities, leading to the loss of around 1,400 jobs in Britain. Production will switch to Turkey.
The US company announced that it is to cease producing Transit vans in Southampton from next summer, leading to the loss of 500 jobs. The remainder will be lost through the closure of a stamping plant in Dagenham.
Ford said that it was switching the production of Transits to Turkey because costs were “significantly lower” than anywhere else in Europe. The company had produced Transits in Southampton for 40 years.
Union officials described the job losses in Southampton and Dagenham, in Essex, as “devastating”, and accused the company of “betrayal”.
Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, said: “Only a few months ago Ford was promising staff a new Transit model for Southampton in 2014. The planned closures will really hurt the local economies and the supply chain will be badly hit – up to 10,000 jobs could be at risk.
“The Transit has been the best-selling van in the UK for over a quarter of a century. It has a future in the UK if this Government is prepared to fight for real jobs and persuade Ford to keep manufacturing vehicles in the UK.”
Meanwhile, workers involved told Channel 4 News how they feared the move signalled the beginning of the end of Ford in the UK altogether. The company still has a number of plants in the UK, including in Liverpool, Brigend, in Wales, and Essex, where components and parts are produced.
“I think Ford have made it obvious,” one employee said. “If we can’t see it today we’ve got to be blind. Ford are looking to get out of the UK in my opinion. They’ve closed about 16 plants in the past 15 years and two more are gone today. How can anyone feel safe after that?”
Another worker, Dominic, 39, added: “I’m very angry. I’m very angry at the way they treated us. I’ve been at this company for 24 years and we’ve give it our all.
“From the time Fiesta was here, we give it our all, we signed everything they wanted us to sign – and they took it away from us, we accepted that.
“So then we go on, trying to keep this plant going, which we did. Every single bloke in there should pat themselves on the back for that, for the work they’ve done.
“They’ve agreed pay deals, what they didn’t agree with, they still went along with it, just to keep the plant open, just the keep the company happy. And where are we now? They’ve just said to us, you ain’t got a job.”
Stephen Odell, chairman and chief executive of Ford of Europe, said capacity at the plant in Kocaeli was much bigger than in Southampton, which produced around 28,000 vans last year, compared to 185,000 in Turkey.
Ford, which employs around 11,400 workers in the UK at plants including Dagenham, Halewood on Merseyside and Bridgend, said that it hoped to achieve the reductions through voluntary redundancies, enhanced employee separation and redeployment to other sites.
It is understood that workers at the Dagenham site staged a walkout after being told the news, although they were told to go home by the company. Workers in Southampton were also sent home for the day.
Ford said it hoped to create up to 200 new jobs at its engine factory in Bridgend, South Wales, and that 1,000 of the workers affected by today’s news would take voluntary redundancy, with others moving to other parts of the Ford business.
The Business Secretary Vince Cable said that the government would make efforts to help the workers find new jobs. He said: “Today’s news will be very disappointing for the workers at Southampton and Dagenham who have been very aware of the challenges facing the auto sector throughout Europe.
“Our priority will be to help the workforce and we will be working with Ford to get them into new jobs as quickly as possible.”
Ford said its UK operations will remain a “centre of excellence” for powertrain development and production. There are plans to add a new generation 2-litre diesel engine to power future Ford vehicles from 2016.
The engine will be developed at the firm’s technical centre in Dunton, Essex.
Mr Odell said: “We are reaffirming our commitment to the UK with a major investment in powertrain and engineering and one which will reinforce
the UK’s central role in Ford’s global powertrain strategy.”
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: “Ford’s decision to cease vehicle production in the UK marks the end of an era and is a devastating blow to the Ford workers set to lose their jobs, with many more put at risk in Ford UK’s supply chain too.
“Whereas for years White Van Man has driven the iconic Ford Transit, the workhorse of British business assembled in the UK, he will now have to buy it from Turkey as a result of this announcement.”