FORD bosses have banned Southampton MP John Denham from visiting its threatened Swaythling plant site, claiming his presence would “disrupt output”.
Mr Denham was due to meet local union officials and managers at the Swaythling plant yesterday but was told the meeting was cancelled.
After having the meeting in his diary for months, long before the planned closure was announced, Mr Denham was fed excuse after excuse as he tried to find out why he was not able to have the meeting.
Among the various reasons they gave one was that they were concerned he would urge workers to do something such as industrial action.
“I could believe that they were saying this. I thought it was ridiculous and I said as much to them.
“At the beginning of the week my office rang up to confirm the arrangement not thinking that the visit was not going ahead.
“I then rang their communications people. I just thought it was extraordinary. I said that their reputation has been pretty badly damaged since all this happened, I said to them, ‘Are you really sure that you want to cancel this meeting?’”, said the Labour MP.
A shock announcement that the Transit factory would be shutdown in July next year with the loss of more than 500 jobs was made three weeks ago. It has being making Transits since 1972.
Ford plans to move production to Turkey, where a larger plant already makes Transit vans and has received a £80m euro loan to help retool the factory for the next model of the iconic white van.
Unions, who are opposing the plant closure, called the cancellation of the meeting with Mr Denham “deeply disappointing”.
Mr Denham added that he was still happy to meet with union representatives.
“I can meet and I’m sure I will meet somewhere offsite. It just seems ridiculous that we’re reduced to meeting somewhere that isn’t at the site in question,” he said.
Meanwhile Unite, the union representing Ford workers, is set to meet with company bosses at the plant next week to discuss possibility of alternate or new work continuing beyond July.
Andy Cox, Unite’s deputy convener at the plant, said Ford had made a commitment to sit down for the talks about “viable business opportunities”.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke will be part of the negotiations, he said.
A spokesman for Ford, said: “We are in an important consultation period with our employees and their representatives during which any discussions remain confidential between the company and its employees.
“We fully recognise the impact this planned action is having on our employees at Southampton and it is important for the company to prioritise this consultation process and to focus on the interests of its employees during this sensitive phase.
“The company met with Mr Denham and other local MPs on November 8 and has committed to keeping them fully up to date on the progress of discussions.
We expect further meetings with MPs and other stakeholders as the consultation process progresses.”