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Closure fears for Southampton Ford factory
12:58pm Wednesday 24th October 2012 in News
The Southampton factory, which employs 600 workers, is famous for making the iconic Transit van.
Ford today announced it had started a consultation in Belgium on a plan to close its Genk Plant and to cease vehicle production by the end of 2014.
It added adding that the closure would entail a "reduction of approximately 4,300 positions".
Ford of Europe's chief executive Stephen Odell added: "The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford's business in Europe."
Meanwhile the plant's local MP, Caroline Nokes, said she was urgently trying to get answers from Ford's management.
She said: “This would be incredibly bad news for Swaythling in particular but also Southampton and the wider region.
“There are 500 jobs at the plant, but this would also be horrendous news for people in the supply chain.
“Southampton has been the home of the Transit for many years, and it would be an absolute tragedy when the motor sector is doing well in other parts of the country if the Ford plant was to close.”
Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne added: “I would be appalled if it was to close, and it would entirely go against the assurance we had from senior Ford management at the time of the last restructure.”
The speculation over the plant's future follows a fall in European sales.
A Ford spokeswoman said there would be further announcements tomorrow about the firm’s European restructuring plans.
But she declined to comment on the future of the Southampton plant, however Sky News were reporting that an annoucnement tomorrow would see the plant close.
The US carmaker last month confirmed staff at the Southampton factory will be offered voluntary redundancy under plans to shed “several hundred” jobs across Europe.
The giant car and van manufacturer is looking to slash positions across the continent and reduce spending on agency workers.
The workforce of around 500 salaried workers at Southampton’s Swaythling plant were due to be offered voluntary “separations” along with thousands of other staff around the country employed by the firm.
Union chiefs have already warned that managerial and engineering jobs are under threat around the country.
The Swaythling plant last year produced 28,000 short and 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.
About half the workforce – some 500 jobs – were culled at the Swaythling factory three years ago.
The firm is conducting three job cutting programmes in Germany, the UK and the rest of Europe.
It said it wanted to adapt production to shrinking demand.
The second biggest car maker in the US is expected to lose more than $1billion in Europe this year.
Its car sales have plunged 12 per cent in Europe in the year to August, according to an industry group, and by 29 per cent in August.
Ford has other UK operations at Dagenham, Bridgend and a jointm venture at Halewood.
Trade union representatives have been called to a meeting at its Basildon headquarters tomorrow morning, according to Unite, the union.