UNION bosses say workers at the giant Southampton Ford plant have been “slapped in the face” by Ford’s management, who have refused to guarantee the long-term future of the plant.

The bombshell came from the new top-level Ford chief Steve Adams, who said that while the motor giant planned to build chassis cabs at the Swaythling factory, the plans had yet to be approved in regard to the new vehicles range.

He also said the Southampton team would face “challenges”

and the factory must continue to produce high quality vehicles to ensure its survival.

Nick Chaffey, of the National Network of Shop Stewards and a Ford campaigner, said: “This kind of uncertainty will make workers on the shop floor extremely angry.

“Many people feared downsizing the plant was a partial closure and the first step in an exit strategy for the motor giant and this news will reignite those concerns.

“If any further cuts come unions and the public will have to launch the mother of all campaigns to resist it.”

In his exclusive interview with the Daily Echo, Mr Adams, the firm’s new Ford of Europe commercial line director, said workers may have to wait a year before they find out what the l o n g - t e rm future holds for the Southampton plant.

Mr Adams confirmed the board had given the green light to the current chassis cabs being produced at the factory but that another application would need to be made as the new vehicle range was introduced.

He said the intention for the future was to link the chassis cab to Southampton but this had not been approved and he admitted the unfolding economic climate and customer demand would influence Ford plans.

He added it was hoped the recession was coming to an end so demand for the chassis cabs would recover to 35,000 and the future of the industry and the Southampton plant could become more secure.

One worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The non-committal message sets off alarm bells for me and other workers who watched the rumours come out last year and then the mass redundancies early this year.”

Question marks over the future of the Ford factory came to light when the Daily Echo published a leaked company memo revealing plans to cut jobs, slash output and export production of the iconic Transit to Turkey.

These plans were pushed back after the company was hit by the recession.