WORKERS at the giant Southampton Ford plant are returning today after their third shutdown in a year.

News the motor giant planned to slash 550 jobs, cut output and export production of the iconic Transit van was revealed last year when the Daily Echo exclusively published a leaked company memo.

Months later the firm admitted huge cutbacks were on the cards and earlier this year half the factory took voluntary redundancy and walked out the gates for the last time.

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Top-level Detroit bosses gave the green light to the plan to downsize Southampton and cut production to just 30,000 chassis cabs.

Due to the recession the move was pushed back a year but jobs were still cut.

Ford bosses insist there are no plans for further job cuts and claim the factory will now be operating at maximum efficiency.

They refused to say when production of its most famous model would be moved from the city to an operation in Turkey.

In addition to extended periods of downtime workers had a month shutdown at Christmas, another during the summer in addition to the two weeks just gone.