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The Ford motor company has announced it will cut 1,400 UK jobs by 2013 at two of its production plants in response to difficult trading conditions in Europe.
Managers told staff that 500 posts at the firm’s Southampton transit van plant would go, while up to 900 will be lost at the Dagenham metal stamping facility.Production will be moved to Turkey, but the employer said that one in four Ford engines will still be produced in the UK.
Stephen Odell, Ford's chairman and chief executive in Europe, said: "We, like any other manufacturer, have to reflect the economic and business conditions we're involved in.
"We've seen a dramatic decline in the economic situation and indeed the automotive industry as a whole.
"In terms of vehicle numbers, we're running a fleet around 14 million a year in western Europe, that's 20 per cent below where we were in 2007.
"The double-dip recession has really exposed that and in any business, you simply cannot run with that level of excess capacity over a sustained period of time."
But the Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Ford has betrayed its workforce and its loyal customer base. 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.”
McCluskey also called on business secretary Vince Cable to intervene to save jobs and manufacturing skills.
The affected Ford employees were shocked by the announcement, one told Channel 4 news: “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.
"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."
Responding to the announcement, Cable said: “This 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 has underlined its continued long term commitment to its core activities in the UK and its £1.5 billion programme of investment in advanced manufacturing, engineering and research and development until 2015.”
Having worked over 25 years in manufacturing, it is clear that redundancies and closures are an unfortunate but inevitable factor in todays climate. Competition is global and progress is unstoppable. Being lean and fit will help a business to survive. There are many developing economies that are pitching for the work and jobs and there are casualties as a result. It is a very sad state for Ford Workers today, but if decisions like these are not taken, and we go around blaming the employer, blaming the government, or taking an entrenched position in the hope it might change something we should not be surprised at how quickly we become irrelevant in the world market.