Ford strike action on hold while talks take place
INDUSTRIAL action over potential job losses at Ford’s Bridgend Engine Plant has been put on hold while talks take place over its future.
Ford has said it welcomes the decision by union Unite and plans to work with them to look at future opportunities for the site.
In August, Unite confirmed hourly-paid workers voted 52% in favour of strike action and 72% in favour of action short of strike action.
The union had balloted its members after it was revealed more than 1,000 jobs may be lost over the next few years after Ford cut its investment in the new Dragon engine, meaning fewer workers would be required to produce it.
At the time a leaked document also claimed the plant was under-performing in comparison to similar sites including at Dagenham in Essex.
And last week Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) announced it would end its engine deal with the Bridgend plant three months early in 2020.
Ford said that at its peak in 2015 it provided JLR with half a million engines from Bridgend.
The plant also produces the Sigma engine for the Ford Focus, Cougar and Mondeo models.
A working group has now been established between the Welsh Government, Unite, Ford and the Wales Automotive Forum to look at what work could be brought to Bridgend in future.
Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins has urged the Welsh Government to focus on diversifying production at Bridgend Ford and protecting as many jobs as possible.
She has also called for more detail on how the working group will operate and called for investment on future technology, such as moving to development of an electric car industry in Bridgend and for a wider hub centred on the town focused on more advanced, future manufacturing, particularly surrounding the car industry.
Addressing the Senedd, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure Ken Skates confirmed the working group “will explore all options for the factory, including new technologies in electric and hybrid engines”.
“It will report back to me on a regular basis and I give my undertaking in turn to report back to this chamber on a regular basis too.
“Unite have helpfully confirmed that their preference is for dialogue rather than for formal in- dustrial action. That’s a very welcome move by the union.”
After last week’s announcement by JLR, Ogmore AM Huw IrrancaDavies and Ogmore MP Chris Elmore accused the UK Government of direct involvement in a “sweetheart deal” which will lead to the engine work which is being done at Bridgend moving to JLR’s plant in Wolverhampton in 2020.
But the UK Government said the investment referred to dates back to 2011.
A spokesman said: “The UK Government made clear that investment decisions are a devolved matter and the UK Government is focussed on bringing investment into the UK as a whole.”
A Ford spokeswoman said: “We clearly welcome Unite’s decision, and our approach has been consistently for constructive dialogue with our union partners, dedicated work streams are in place to move forward together to examine future business opportunities for the Bridgend operation.”
Unite has been approached for comment.
The Ford engine plant near Bridgend