UNION chiefs want to meet grieving families of men who died of cancer contracted while working at Southampton's Ford factory.

The Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) has offered to support relatives if they take legal action.

It comes after a Daily Echo investigation revealed 21 cases of oesophageal cancer among workers at the Swaythling factory - more than three times the number of cases investigated in an independent study commissioned by Ford.

The motor giant carried out a health inquiry into six oesophageal cancer cases among paint shop workers between 1994 and 2005.

The study - supported by the Medical Research Council and the Health and Safety Executive - found the cancer cluster was a coincidence and unrelated to the workplace. Ford has since consistently maintained that there is no link.

However, the bereaved families were not satisfied with the findings and formed an action group to demand a second investigation.

The TGWU has commissioned its own expert to consider the report and is awaiting the conclusions.

In a letter to group leader Julia Spencer, the union said it was "anxious to assist the families of those who died and were TGWU members".

The letter emphasised that no link had yet been found between cancer and working in the Ford factory but the next move depended on the outcome of their independent expert's review.

"I'm really pleased they are being supportive," said Miss Spencer. "Things are moving slowly but they are moving forward. I'm in the process of contacting the other members of the action group to arrange a time and date for our first meeting. It's great that the union can give us a room free of charge."

TGWU regional representative Colin Lumber said: "These fathers and husbands were all members of the union so we have a moral obligation to make sure any investigation into their deaths is appropriate."

To join the action group contact Julia on 07817 907112.