Ford workers facing redundancy in Southampton are being offered special payments of up to £17,000 to head off possible industrial action, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Union bosses last night warned strike action could be taken to fight the closure of the Ford Transit factory next July with the loss of more than 500 jobs.
But some workers clocking off shift yesterday said they were resigned to the factory’s closure and said there was little mood yet for industrial action.
The latest revelations come after Ford admitted it kept secret plans to close its Swaythling plant while negotiating a multimillion-pound tax payer handout for other UK plants.
Business secretary Vince Cable exclusively told the Daily Echo he had been kept in the dark about Ford’s plans to close the plant when £10m of Government funding was signed off just days earlier.
Ford insisted yesterday an earlier briefing of Government officials would not have been “possible or appropriate”.
Dr Cable, pictured, told the Echo if ministers had been aware of last Thursday's announcement earlier the Government would have gone back to Ford and asked “what on earth was going on”. He said he felt “let down”
Ford had not given more notice.
Ford bosses have said loyal staff would be looked after with “extremely generous” redundancy packages.
Workers at the factory gates told the Echo yesterday they feared special “continuity” payments of between £15,000 and £17,000, on top of severance pay, will be put in jeopardy if production at the factory is disrupted.
However, there is some resentment among the hundreds of sub contractors, agency workers and suppliers, who will not get the payments.
Richard Tarrant, 45, a Ford worker of 20 years, said: “The union has said nothing to us. All our information is coming second hand out of the smoking shelter. What can we do? They are going to close it.”
A Ford contract worker of 12 years, John Finlay, 48, added: “Once Ford has taken the decision to close it we’ve got no leg to stand on. The only people that might have a say is the Government. To say we might have the power to stop it is impossible.”
Roger Maddison, Unite’s national officer for the automotive industry at Unite, said union convenors would hold a strategy meeting in London today before Ford workers were consulted on what action, if any, to take.
He said a mass meeting of union officials at the Southampton plant yesterday reached a "unanimous decision" to oppose the closure and warned strike action had not been ruled out.
“We have to take the word of our reps that people are upset and angry and they want to fight for their jobs.
But we need to agree a strategy that we can take to members.”
Mr Maddison added the Government and Dr Cable should have demanded job guarantees before handing over any money to Ford.
“Ford were after millions of pounds, they are not going to volunteer that information. Maybe that’s a little underhand. Some people would say that’s professional.”
Ford announced last Thursday it planned to shut the Southampton plant and cease stamping and tooling operations in Dagenham to cut costs after falling European sales.
Transit production will move to Turkey.
A Ford spokesman said: “Ford’s planned European restructuring actions, including those affecting Southampton and Dagenham, were approved by the board of Ford Motor Company shortly before the start of communications with employees and employee representatives, and therefore an earlier briefing of Government officials would not have been possible, or appropriate.”
“The offer of the grant is a conditional one, that is not yet confirmed, and it would relate to Ford’s significant planned investment in powertrain manufacturing and engineering in the UK, which includes the announcement to add a new next generation, low-CO2, 2.0-litre diesel engine in Dagenham.”