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Ford workers speak of shock
6:05am Thursday 25th October 2012 in News
But in the words of one worker making her way through the factory gates: “It feels like this is the end.”
That was the feeling among the 500-strong workforce as closure rumours spread “like wildfire” among staff yesterday.
With a mixture of resignation and disbelief, employees at the Swaythling plant have faced an anxious wait after they were sent an email by bosses saying an announcement on the factory’s future would be made today.
It comes after the firm announced plans to close the Genk Plant in Belgium, with the loss of almost 5,000 jobs.
Trade union representatives have been called to a meeting at the carmaker’s headquarters in Basildon this morning before the official statement is released.
Hampshire MPs are uniting in their calls for immediate action to save the plant, which is famous for making the iconic Transit van, should the closure be announced.
Many workers had a sense of inevitability in the face of the closure fears yesterday, having already endured job cuts and uncertainty many times over the years.
Last month the Daily Echo reported howstaff at the plant would be offered voluntary redundancy under plans by Ford to axe “several hundred”
jobs across Europe.
However, there was some speculation that the announcement could be that the plant could be shut down temporarily in order to refit the production lines for further production.
There was also anger directed at the firm’s management that workers had found out about the possible closure via the media, rather than from the company itself.
The factory canteen’s head chef, Mandy Stafford, said she felt physically sick when she heard the news.
She said: “It’s only what we’ve heard on the news, but I reckon it’s going.
“It’s horrible – we all feel sick.
“I haven’t got a clue what I’ll do.
“I have worked here for 20 odd years, and there is always rumours – but this time it’s just got that feeling.
“It feels like this is the end.”
But other employees said they believed the Southampton plant was thriving and would not close.
Ford worker Mohammed Shafik, 58, from Freemantle, said: “I think this plant will probably continue.
“We have been working every day – we haven’t had time off.
“There will be devastation if it closes.
“So far as I can see the ‘Made in England’ stamp, everywhere in Europe and the rest of the world, means that it’s guaranteed for life.
“I think if they move away from the UK, then who’s going to buy the products?”
The Swaythling plant last year produced 28,000 shortand medium wheel base Transit vehicles and was due to shortly become the lead European plant for the chassis cab variants of the next model Transit.
Speculation over the factory’s future follows a fall in European sales, which have dropped by 12 per cent in the year to August.
Ford also predicts its losses will exceed $1billion.
A spokeswoman for the company would only confirm there would be further announcements today about the firm’s European restructuring plans, but declined to comment on the future of the Southampton plant.