Car giant Ford signalled the end of an era yesterday by announcing the closure of its last remaining UK vehicle production factory, and another site, with the loss of 1,400 jobs.
Union officials accused the US company of “betrayal” and said the job losses in Southampton and Dagenham in Essex were “devastating”.
Production of Transit vans will end in Southampton next summer, with the loss of over 500 jobs, with the remainder being cut through the closure of a tooling plant in Dagenham.
Transits have been made in Southampton for over 40 years and the plant’s closure will bring to an end over a century of Ford vehicle production in the UK.
Transit production will switch next year to Turkey, where Ford said costs were “significantly lower” than anywhere in Europe.
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 with 185,000 in Turkey.
Ford said 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 yesterday’s news would take voluntary redundancy, with others moving to other parts of the Ford business.
Business Secretary Vince Cable 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.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey accused Ford of “betraying” its workforce and said the announcement had been handled “disgracefully”.
He 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.”