IT is normally a hive of activity, where the beeping of forklift trucks and the rumbling of lorries can be heard throughout the day.
But Southampton’s Ford plant was eerily quiet yesterday afternoon, as devastated workers left early to come to terms with the fact they would be out of a job within months.
Some staff members left the Swaythling factory in tears and headed straight home – while others made a beeline for the nearest pub to talk over the shocking news with colleagues.
The 500-strong workforce was called to a meeting at 11.15am but the Daily Echo understands that the staff faced an anxious 45-minute hold-up as the official announcement from their managers was delayed.
As they waited, some still speculated that the news could be that the factory’s future had been secured with contracts for new models.
But there was ultimately disappointment when the plant’s manager, who was described as being “almost in tears”, told his staff that the Swaythling factory was set to close for good.
Workers said they had been told the decision was down to the economic slump in Europe and not anything to do with their own efforts.
Older employees expressed their fears for younger staff, who have mortgages and debts to pay and would not be in line for the larger service-based pay-offs.
Some people have been working at the factory for more than 30 years and expressed their disbelief that in July next year they would no longer be going there every day.
And for many, beneath the shock was an undercurrent of anger – and a feeling that hard work over the years to keep the plant open had been in vain.
Paint shop operative Mike Byng, 25, from Swaythling said: “It feels like they have let us down time and time again.
“I personally think it’s greed – the plant is highly profitable but they can make a bit more in Turkey because they have to pay the workers a quarter of what they pay us.”
One employee estimated that at least 600 people work as subcontractors at the plant – in addition to the salaried workforce.
Joe King, 42, from Bitterne said he worked for subcontractor PENSKE and was not in line for the pay deals that Ford workers were expecting.
He said: “I have got a mortgage and I’m going to be in trouble.
“I’m not going to get the same pay off as the Ford workers – I’m heartbroken to be honest.
“It’s come as a shock for me; we didn’t see this coming at all.
“I’ve got another 15 years on the mortgage to pay and it’s going to be hard to find the equivalent pay outside Ford.
“I’m absolutely gutted.”