Dagenham: Ford Site To Close

Car giant Ford has signalled the end of an era by announcing the closure of its last remaining UK vehicle production factory and another site in Essex, with the loss of 1,400 jobs.

Union officials accused the US company of "betrayal" and said the job losses in Southampton and Dagenham 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, even after delivery charges.

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 to 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 would take voluntary redundancy, with others moving to other parts of the Ford business.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey accused Ford of "betraying" its workforce, adding: "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."

Ford employs around 11,400 workers in the UK at plants including Dagenham, Halewood on Merseyside and Bridgend.

Ford said its UK operations will remain a centre of excellence for powertrain development and production, including plans to add a new generation 2-litre diesel engine in Dagenham to power future Ford vehicles from 2016. The engine will be developed at the firm's technical centre in Dunton, Basildon.