Ford's Southampton Transit factory closure 'devastating'

image captionThe closure of Southampton's site will end more than 100 years of Ford vehicle production in Britain

Workers have been left "shocked and angry" by Ford's announcement to close its Transit factory in Southampton with the loss of 500 jobs, a union has said.

The Hampshire plant, where Transit vans have been made for 40 years, will shut in July 2013 - Ford's last vehicle manufacturing site in the UK.

It is understood staff will be offered a redundancy package or redeployment.

It has also been confirmed the car maker will shut its Dagenham plant in Essex with about 750 jobs going.

Workers in Southampton were sent home for the day after hearing the news.

'Disappointment and shock'

The Swaything plant, which makes the Transit van, is the last Ford vehicle assembly plant in the UK.

Justin Bowden, from the GMB union, said: "There will be a feeling of shock and anger.

"This is devastating news for the workers in Southampton and Dagenham and is very bad news for UK manufacturing."

image captionWorker Simon Spicer said he is not sure what he will do next

Employee Mohammed Shafiq, 58, from Southampton, has worked at the plant for 38 years.

He said: "People are very shocked and management said if you are shocked you can leave work early.

"This is very important for Southampton which needs more industry."

Fellow local worker Simon Spicer, 40, said: "It's a disappointment and a shock but I suppose it was something that was going to happen because they had talked about closing.

"My dad worked here in 1972 for 25 years. I've worked here for 25 years, I'm not sure what I'll do."

The US car making firm is restructuring across Europe and announced on Wednesday its Belgian plant in Genk would also shut with the loss of 4,300 jobs.

Made Spitfires

The closure of Southampton's factory will end more than 100 years of vehicle production by the company in Britain.

About 2.2 million Transits have been made in Southampton since 1972 and it has been dubbed "the home of the Transit".

The factory was used to make Spitfires during World War II and was targeted by German bombers.

image captionFormer worker Bill Chandler said staff will struggle to cope

In 2009, the firm halved its workforce at Southampton to 500 with some production moving to Turkey.

Former worker Bill Chandler took redundancy in 2008 after 32 years with the company.

He said: "It's extremely bad news, especially for those who have young families.

"How are they going to manage? Is Ford going to keep up their commitment to keep their pensions going and are they going to ensure these workers are being looked after?

"The production in that place goes back a very long time. In fact a lot of us are very proud we actually used to work with people who built the first Spitfires there."

'Workhorse of Britain'

John Denham, Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, said workers had been "let down".

He said: "For years the Southampton-built Transit has been the workhorse of British business. White van man drives a Transit.

image captionMP John Denham said Ford workers in Southampton had been "let down"

"Now white van man will only be able to buy a Transit from Turkey."

Mr Denham said he would be asking ministers what they had done to try and make Ford change its mind.

He also called on the government and local councils to set up a taskforce to help those who would lose their jobs.

Leader of Southampton City Council, Richard Williams, said: "It's an absolute kick in the teeth, there's no question about that.

"We're having to run as fast as we can to try and respond to it."

Sally Lynskey, chief executive of Business Solent, said: "It will undoubtedly be a major blow for the local economy.

"[It will] also have a serious knock-on effect for the local companies in the supply chain."

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.