Employees at Ford’s Southampton plant in Swaythling and another in Dagenham have been surprised and angered this week after the automaker announced 1,400 job losses due to the plants being closed. This will affect some 530 positions in Swaythling and 750 at the stamping plant in Dagenham, as well as support workers. Although the rest of the Dagenham operation will remain open and the two other sites that Ford operates in Halewood and Bridgend won’t be affected, this announcement is a huge blow to the economy just as its growth has signalled an end to the double-dip recession.
These Swaythling and Dagenham plants are important to their communities for different reasons. The operation in Southampton has made the Ford Transit van since 1972, building over six million in the last 45 years. However, now the plant will be shut down, and the work will be moved to Turkey. The Dagenham stamping plant presses the sheets of metal that are used to manufacturer the Transit in Southampton, and it will also be closed in the summer.
Southampton worker Simon Spicer (40) says that the announcement is shocking and disappointing. His father worked there for 25 years from 1972, and he’s worked there for the same amount of time. He doesn’t know what he will do now. A co-worker said that this was the worst news they have heard since they’ve worked there. This isn’t only shocking for them, but for future generations as well. All the major businesses have closed up shop, and while the population is growing, they are concerned about where jobs will come from.
The cuts were revealed to shop stewards representing UK staff at a meeting with European head Stephen Odell on Thursday morning. Ford of Britain chairman Joe Greenwell says that all redundancies will be voluntary. They are putting teams in place to work with employees individually on what will work the best for them. They have had a 20% decline in European sales since 2007, which has increased an excess of vehicles and capacity utilisation is too low. They simply can’t sustain two transit plants against this background of demand.
Ford president and chief executive Alan Mulally said that, using the same plan that led to robust profitability in North America, they will be addressing problems in Europe with a focus on new products, more cost efficiency and a stronger brand. He realises the impact their actions will have on several staff and their families, but the company is in the middle of a crisis in Europe. They will work with all stakeholders during the transformation of the business. The company added that they hope to reduce the job losses by 300 with relocating workers.
Following the disappointing news, Business Secretary Vince Cable has vowed to intervene to help the one in ten of Ford’s staff facing redundancy to find new jobs. Romsey and Southampton MP Caroline Nokes said that the closure is a bitter blow, and it’s very important that everything is done to help the people affected. The closure will have a huge impact on employment. These workers have similar skills, and it’s vital they are given as much support as possible.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey claimed that Ford has betrayed its workforce. The company was promising just a few months ago that Southampton workers would get a new Transit model in 2014. These closures will really hurt local economies, with up to 10,000 jobs at risk. GMB national officer Justin Bowden added that this is a devastating announcement for Southampton and Dagenham employees, as well as for the UK manufacturing market. Ford has a record of breaking promises and shutting down factories in Britain. A lot of people will be shocked and angry, and the commitment of investment wont’ do much to subdue them.