FORD has come under attack from unions after announcing plans to close its engine plant in Bridgend next year, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.
The company blamed the ending of a contract with Jaguar Land Rover and a fall in sales of petrol engines amid huge changes in the car industry, stressing that the decision was not related to Brexit.
The 40-year-old plant in South Wales will close in September 2020, affecting jobs in companies supplying goods and services to the plant, and delivers another huge blow to the UK motor industry following news that Honda is to shut its factory in Swindon, while other firms are cutting back.
Unions said the news was devastating for the plant and the UK economy, pledging to resist the closure ‘with all their might’.
Ford’s European president Stuart Rowley told the Press Association that Bridgend workers were ‘great’ and had ‘done nothing wrong’, adding that they will be offered enhanced redundancies as well as help with finding other jobs.
He added: ‘Creating a strong and sustainable Ford business in Europe requires us to make some difficult decisions, including the need to scale our global engine manufacturing footprint to best serve our future vehicle portfolio.
‘We are committed to the UK. However, changing customer demand and cost disadvantages, plus an absence of additional engine models for Bridgend going forward make the plant economically unsustainable in the years ahead.’
Ford said factors behind the proposed closure of Bridgend included ‘significant underutilisation’ of the plant, driven by the impending end of engine production for Jaguar Land Rover, the ending of the previous generation Ford GTDi 1.5-litre engine, and reduced global demand for the new generation Ford GTDi and Pfi 1.5-litre engines.
At expected volumes, the plant also faces a cost disadvantage compared with other Ford facilities, said the company, adding that ‘significant efforts’ to identify new opportunities had not been successful.
Workers were given the news at briefings inside the plant this morning and told to go home and not return until Monday.
GMB regional organiser Jeff Beck said: ‘We’re hugely shocked by today’s announcement. It’s a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend.’
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Ford’s decision to shut its Bridgend engine plant in 2020 is a grotesque act of economic betrayal.’
Ford also has another engine plant in Dagenham, Essex, and a plant making transmissions in Halewood, Liverpool. The company announced last month that it was cutting 7,000 white collar jobs worldwide, with up to 550 expected in the UK.