Ford to cut 1,400 car jobs in Southampton and Dagenham

Unite's Roger Maddison: "Employees at Dagenham have been close to tears"

Carmaker Ford has announced plans to close two UK plants with the loss of 1,400 jobs.

Its Southampton Transit van factory and the stamping plant at Dagenham, east London, will shut, with union sources saying job losses could reach 2,000.

Ford said it planned to close the plants next year.

The news came a day after Ford said it had started consultations on closing its factory at Genk in Belgium with the loss of 4,300 jobs to cut costs.

The firm told the unions it was looking to close the Genk factory, which makes the Mondeo and S-Max models, in 2014.

'Persistent crisis'

Ford said it hoped to achieve the job losses through voluntary redundancies and redeployments.

"We will address the crisis in Europe with a laser focus on new products, a stronger brand and increased cost efficiency," said Ford boss Alan Mulally.

"We recognise the impact our actions will have on many employees and their families in Europe, and we will work together with all stakeholders during this necessary transformation of our business."

A Transit carries a 49ft long dinosaur model from Kent to the natural history park in Scotland, 1973

The carmaker also announced it would be investing in a new diesel engine range at Dagenham.

Ford said the decision to close the plants was taken "against a backdrop of the severe and persistent economic crisis in Europe", which had seen demand for cars in Western Europe drop by 20% since 2007 and car sales in the region hit a 20-year low. It predicted a loss for Ford Europe of more than $1.5bn (£930m) in 2012.

'Disgraceful'

Paul Everitt, head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the move was "part of wider restructuring to ensure a stronger and more competitive European automotive industry".

"The immediate priority is to help those impacted secure alternative employment. The decline in European vehicle markets and the uncertain future growth prospects has resulted in a number of vehicle manufacturers restructuring their operations.

Analysis

Ford's plan to close the two plants is part of its efforts to revive its loss-making European division, rather than a reflection of the efforts and quality of its UK workforce.

Car sales in Europe have slumped during the eurozone crisis, and Ford expects the weakness to persist.

Demand for commercial vehicles such as the Transit has also fallen as many of its business customers are in difficulty.

Ford says it is eager to scale back its manufacturing capacity to match demand, a logic that might please investment analysts but will do little to comfort those whose jobs are on the line.

"These are difficult times for the European automotive industry as manufacturers adapt to new market conditions and changing patterns of global demand."

However, unions criticised Ford for its decision and the way the carmaker went about announcing it.

Unite said the plant closures could lead to the loss of up to 2,000 jobs at Ford, with production of the Transit van moving to Turkey.

"Ford has betrayed its workforce and its loyal customer base," said the union's general secretary Len McCluskey.

"Unite is going to fight these closures. This announcement has been handled disgracefully.

"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 GMB union said 1,000 jobs would be going at Dagenham.

"This is devastating news for the workforce in Southampton and Dagenham. It's also devastating news for UK manufacturing," said the union's national officer, Justin Bowden.

"Ford's track record in Britain is one of broken promises and factory closures."

Some new posts will be created at the Dagenham engine plant, which will build Ford's new Panther engine, reports say.

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