THE workers have been betrayed. That’s the blunt assessment of MPs who have battled for years to save the plant – and were promised repeatedly that it had a long-term future.
Now those same MPs have accused the US car giant of going back on its promises.
It has emerged they met with the company’s UK chief in 2008 when the axe was last hovering over the Swaythling plant – and guarantees were made that production would continue to at least 2015.
Ford even wined and dined Southampton MP John Denham, left, at one London’s top restaurants earlier this year during which time closing the plant was not on the agenda.
Along with other Hampshire MPs, he says workers have been left in the dark about the multi–national’s true plans – to switch production to its rapidly expanding factory in Turkey where the staff are paid half as much.
Former Lib Dem MP for Romsey Sandra Gidley, right, held crisis talks with Ford of Europe chief John Fleming in 2008, along with Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne and Test MP Alan Whitehead, where vows were made for the plant’s future.
She told the Daily Echo: “I think people have every right to feel betrayed.
“I remember reassurances until 2015, that it was not the beginning of the end and were absolutely sincere about it.
“You have to question how honest Ford has been with their workers.
“It does seem to have come out of the blue. If they had been straight with workers they could have come up with solutions to avoid it.”
Mr Whitehead, second left, said bosses had reassured him they were putting their effort and faith in Southampton.
He said: “I think now a lot of people feel desperately let down. To lose your job without any notice at all or preparation is bad.”
Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne, second right, described the closure as a hammer blow to the economy.
He said: “Although I understand the difficulties that Ford faces in the European market, this decision flies in the face of the promises that we were made only three years ago.
“The essential news when we met the senior management, and it was the head of European operations at the time, was that there would short-term job cuts but the long-term future of plant was assured.
“That was the essential assurance. It was clear that it was going to be tough, but that there was a role for Swaythling in making the chassis cab going forward.”
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham said no mention of closure was made when he and Labour MPs from constituencies with Ford plants attended a dinner with Ford bosses at a London restaurant in the spring.
He said: “Closure of Southampton was not on the agenda. What was discussed was the prospect of putting more work into the plant than the chassis cabs, with more high-value work such as specialist Transits being brought in.
“What is the ultimate betrayal is that a great part of the investment Ford has been making is outside this country and the EU.”
A Ford UK spokesman denied any betrayal had happened.
He said: “From 2008 until the present time is a different economic climate, things are very bad out there.”