1,000 jobs blow for car plant
FORD’S BRIDGEND FACTORY SET TO BEAR BRUNT OF CAR GIANT’S PLANNED UK CUTS
THE Ford engine plant in Bridgend will lose 1,000 jobs in US car giant Ford’s cost-cutting plan in Europe, sources have said.
The Welsh engine plant, which makes petrol engines for Ford vehicles and other car firms including Jaguar Land Rover, is expected to be hardest hit by the firm’s UK job losses.
The plans are for two phases of cuts at Bridgend, achieved by 2020/21, sources said.
The Ford plant in Bridgend has been facing huge uncertainty as the life of the engines it currently makes draw to an end with fewer staff needed for the Dragon engine expected to come into production there.
In November, we reported that staff had been warned there would be voluntary redundancies this year. It is thought that could involve as many as 370 staff going.
The company gave no details about job losses in the UK, but said it was starting consultations with unions to implement a “comprehensive transformation strategy”.
Shop stewards from Ford factories have now been given a briefing on the proposals.
Sources said the plans were for a total of 1,150 job losses in the UK, with almost 1,000 at Bridgend and the rest at Ford’s transport operations, which would affect lorry drivers.
People at the plant have previously told the Echo they think the US car firm is embarking on a two-stage closure of Bridgend with 1,000 jobs expected to be surplus to requirements when the new Dragon engine programme comes into effect.
Although 1,700 people are employed at the plant at the moment, only 500 are thought to be needed for the new engine.
The Financial Times reported that Ford has warned that its two UK sites – at Bridgend and Dagenham – face “significantly more dramatic” cuts than already planned if the country leaves the EU without a trading deal.
It said that every area of the Ford business in Europe was now under review as the business is “completely redesigned”.
Ford declined to confirm the figures and said it was consulting with unions.
The company announced on Thursday that it would be speeding up plans to cut structural costs.
“We are taking decisive action to transform the Ford business in Europe,” said Steven Armstrong, Ford’s group vice-president and president, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“We will invest in the vehicles, services, segments and markets that best support a long-term sustainably profitable business, creating value for all our stakeholders and delivering emotive vehicles to our customers.”
Ford said it was starting formal consultation with its works council and trade unions, adding that it was committed to working with its key stakeholders over the new strategy.
The announcement from Ford came on the same day as Jaguar Land Rover said it was axing 4,500 jobs and Honda said it was halting production for six days after Brexit.
Jeff Beck, GMB organiser, said the union would “fight for every Ford job in Bridgend and across the UK”.
“Our members there have been extremely loyal to Ford, and we will stand by them,” he said.
Unite national officer for automotive industries Des Quinn said: “What is being proposed at Bridgend is due to take place in two stages over two years.
“It is a devastating blow for our members and their families, as well as having grave implications for the Welsh economy and the supply chain.
“Unite is fully committed to opposing any compulsory redundancies and campaigning strongly for Bridgend to have a viable future.
We will be consulting our members very closely in the days and weeks ahead.
“There are a number of factors behind this grim news – the main ones being challenging market conditions for carmakers generally, a lack of a coherent industrial strategy from the UK Government and the uncertainty created by Brexit.
“Over the last two decades the UK car industry has experienced a renaissance of which we can all be proud of.
“The challenge for government, the car makers and the unions in the near future is to fight very hard to maintain the environment that made that success possible.”
Labour Ogmore MP Chris Elmore described it as “a hammer-blow” to the South Wales economy.
Suzy Davies, the Conservative AM for South Wales West, said: “A thousand job losses is staggering news, a real punch in the stomach to so many families who live and work in the area.”
Ms Davies wants details of what steps the Welsh Government has taken to protect jobs, stating that it had said it was “in discussions with Ford about how they could support new technologies like electric engines and autonomous vehicles”.
Claiming that “three years down the line there appears to have been no progress on this”, she said: “I have written to the Economy Secretary calling for him to explain why he has not made more progress on this. As it is, this could well be the first real test for the new First Minister.”
The Welsh Government has restated its commitment to “work closely with Ford to protect the hundreds of highly skilled jobs at Bridgend and in its supply chain, as well as look for other high-technology opportunities for the site”, adding that its “support for the plant on its road to modernisation becomes even more critical in this context”.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy declined to comment on the grounds the report of jobs losses was “speculation”.
Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “These reports are devastating – both for the workers directly affected and the wider Welsh economy. If confirmed, it would mean that the Ford plant in Bridgend is set to lose the majority of its workforce.
“I will do everything in my power to make sure these workers are supported and their rights protected. Questions have been raised about the future of the plant for some time.
“The Labour Welsh Government should already be at the door of the Ford management, pressing them on this decision, which will seemingly lead to terrible consequences for thousands of families that rely on Ford for employment.
“An urgent economic summit should be organised, of the kind set up at the time of the economic crisis a decade ago.
“I will also be seeking urgent meetings with the workers and their representatives, as well as with Ford.”
He added: “A number of different factors will have undoubtedly led to this decision, however, Brexit’s part in this distressing news is undeniable. The economic reality of Brexit is jobs will be lost because of the political decisions made in London.”
Chris Elmore MP
The Ford plant in Bridgend which could see the loss of 1,000 jobs
Suzy Davies AM