Ford workers are being offered pay-offs of up to £80,000 as unions prepare to ballot their members on possible strike action over the closure of Southampton’s transit plant.

Union bosses described the pay offs ass “blood money”.

It comes as the Daily Echo reveal the figure being offered to long serving workers at the Swaythling plant, as a redundancy packages, including special payments, to head off industrial action.

The motor giant wants to shut down the factory in July as part of a European cost cutting plan.

As previously revealed workers will lose the so-called “continuity”

payments of between £15,000 and £20,000 if they disrupt production by taking industrial action.

One worker, who has been at the Transit plant for 30 years, said he had been offered a package of more £80,000 and an enhanced pension.

Ford would not comment on the redundancy packages being offered to workers other than to say they were “extremely generous”.

Contracted staff have been offered less generous terms.

Unite regional officer Fred Hanna called the severance deals “blood money” and said a mass meeting of the 500 workers at the plant would be called the week after next. Members would be balloted on whether they wanted to oppose the closure, he said.

Mr Hanna said that at a meeting earlier this week Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey had pledged to put up a war chest and make full union resources available to fight the plant closure if members voted for industrial action.

Unite leaders will also head to a European Works Council meeting in Germany next week along with counterparts from Belgium, where another Ford plant has been earmarked for closure in 2014 with the loss of 4,300 jobs.

Up to 50,000 people are expected to demonstrate in Genk next week in protest at Ford’s decision to close its 50 year old Belgian plant, which makes the Mondeo and Galaxy.

UEFA even allowed the town’s football club to broadcast messages of support for Ford workers before a Europa League match against Sporting Libson last week.

Meanwhile, public holidays in Luxembourg thwarted efforts by Hampshire Euro MPs who wanted to probe an £80m Euro loan made to a Ford plant in Turkey that will take over Southampton’s Transit workload.

The cheap loan, revealed in yesterday’s Echo, was signed off in June by the Luxembourg based European Investment Bank (EIB) to ramp up production of Transit vans at the sprawling Ford Otosan plant in Kocaeli where costs are lower.

Lib Dem Catherine Bearder said she would be calling for the loan decision to be “reviewed”, while Labour’s Peter Skinner wanted to know whether the “potential impact on UK jobs was considered when this loan was made”.

UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who uncovered details of the loan, yesterday wrote to the Chancellor George Osborne, pictured, a governor of the EIB, to demand to know why he allowed the loan to be granted, what analysis took place in relation to likely UK job losses, and if not, why not.

“It would appear the institutions of the E u ro p e a n Union have been used to ensure UK taxpayers are funding the export of their own jobs by financing soft loans to multinational corporations,” he said.

Ford last week announced it planned to close down its Southampton factory with the loss of more than 500 jobs after a sharp fall in European car sales. It is seeking to cut costs with forecasted European losses of $1.5bn this year and next.

The Treasury said it was not aware of any impending “commercial”

decision to close the Southampton plant when the EIB loan deal was agreed and stressed the Chancellor does not sit on its decision making board.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “The Ford Otosan II project was approved as part of the European Investment Bank’s support for Turkey’s integration into the European Union economy.

“The European Investment Bank makes investments in key markets outside the European Union and also within it, for instance Ford UK benefitted from up to £450 million of EIB funding in 2010. Any queries regarding the Otosan II project should be forwarded to EIB.”

“We recognise the closure of the assembly plant in Southampton and stamping and tooling operations in Dagenham will be very disappointing for workers.

“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 have made clear they are committed to the UK and the car manufacturing industry as a whole remains strong”.

The EIB again failed to respond to requests for comment on the Ford Otosan loan. Questions also remain over the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ offer of a £10m grant to Ford to develop a new low carbon diesel engine in the UK. The loan was signed off just days before Ford announced a wave of European factory closures.

Business secretary Vince Cable told this newspaper in an exclusive interview that he was unaware of Ford’s intention to close Swaythling at the time the grant was approved. But this appeared to be contradicted by the Prime Minster on Wednesday when he told MPs that “obviously these issues were discussed”.

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