Belfast Telegraph

Unions criticise Ford for putting more than 1,100 jobs at risk at engine factory

Unions have blasted Ford for putting more than 1,100 manufacturing jobs at risk and said Brexit was a factor behind the car giant's plans.

The firm is reportedly looking to slash up to 1,160 jobs at its engine plant in Bridgend over the next five years, leaving 600 workers at the site.

Following a meeting with the company, the GMB said the "nightmare" of job losses had come true, while Unite called on the Government to secure tariff -free access to the European single market because Brexit was "clearly a factor" in Ford's review of the plant.

Jeff Beck, GMB organiser, said: "This is a real kick in the teeth for our hard-working members at the Ford plant, as well as their families and the community as a whole."

"Our first priority is to defend our members' jobs."

It is understood that Ford has projected the job losses based on the assumption that it is unable to bring in any new work at the plant.

Ford said it has proposed a joint working party with unions Unite and GMB "to identify future business opportunities".

The company remained tight-lipped on the number of jobs at risk, but admitted "efficiencies" were being considered.

"It goes without saying, that in order to attract new business, the Bridgend operation would need to ensure its competitiveness, and addressing some of the current concerns relating to the plant's efficiency would be high on the agenda," a spokesman for the firm said.

Ford first announced cutbacks on its planned investment in the new Dragon engine in September last year.

The group had hoped to be producing 25,000 of the new petrol engines a year at the plant under plans first announced in 2015.

Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs the Government had held talks with Ford over ways to help ensure the "success" of the firm's UK operations.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, she said: "Ford is an important investor here, it's been established here for over a hundred years. We now account for around a third of Ford's global engine production and Bridgend continues to be an important part of that."

Ford is the latest car manufacturer to hold talks with the Government after Nissan sought assurances on its UK plant following the Brexit vote and PSA Group announced plans to buy Vauxhall and Opel from General Motors.

Nissan warned MPs on Tuesday that it would be a ''complete disaster'' if the delivery of parts to its giant Sunderland plant was disrupted by customs checks as a result of the UK leaving the European Customs Union (CU).

It came as around 3,400 workers at Britain's Vauxhall plants continued to face an anxious wait over their future, despite PSA Group chief executive Carlos Tavares telling unions he was not "here to shut plants".

Speaking outside the Bridgend factory following his talks with Ford , Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey called on the firm to stop blaming its "first class" workforce.

Mr McCluskey said he was hearing all sorts of "garbage" that the workers "cost too much".

In a statement, the Unite boss said he would now be seeking "legally binding guarantees" to secure future production at the plant, while exploring how Bridgend could be brought up to full capacity.

"Brexit is clearly a factor here," he added. "So I appeal again to the Westminster Government and Theresa May to make it categorically clear without delay that there will be tariff-free access to the single market and customs union, because the uncertainty the UK's automotive sector is enduring is having damaging real-life consequences now, before talks have even begun."

Wales secretary for Unite Andy Richards said the union could not rule out strikes.

"There is a lot of worried people in there and a lot of angry people in there," he said.

On the topic of possible industrial action, he added: "I think it would be inappropriate to talk about strikes at this stage. I think the news is just sinking in with the workforce ... such is the temperature within the plant we can't rule that out in the long term."