Ford plans to cull 1100 jobs at its Welsh engine plant by 2021 say British trade unions, which threatens the future of the site. The Bridgend plant makes around a third of Britain’s total engine output, producing small petrol engines for Ford as well as V6 and V8 engines for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) following its sale to Tata in 2008.
Two changes are set to hit the plant. The contract with JLR is due to expire in 2020, with JLR planning to move production to its own new engine plant in Wolverhampton. Secondly, from 2018, Ford intends to reduce the workforce at the site as it introduces a new engine, which it plans to sell in lower volumes. Currently, Ford produces 511,000 Sigma engines annually at the site, but these will be replaced by only 125,000 new Dragon engines.
Following a meeting between Ford and the unions on Wednesday, where they discussed its five-year outlook report, the head of the UK’s biggest union Unite, Len McCluskey said: ‘The meeting with Ford today confirmed that it does not have a replacement business plan for the Jaguar engine which will cease production at Bridgend by 2020.'
'Ford must give this plant a chance and work with Unite to secure a better future. We will be seeking legally binding guarantees to secure future production at the plant, as well as exploring how Bridgend’s production capacity can be fully utilised through the introduction of new lines.’
Ford, however, rejects the statements of the unions. A spokesman said: ‘That's not correct. We're not in a position to confirm any job losses. We're certainly several years away from that. […] We're proposing a joint working party with the Unite and GMB to identify future business needs.’
The US carmaker’s five-year plan will mean a loss of 1,160 staff at Bridgend if current contracts are not renewed, losing 65% of its staff and leaving just 600 working at the plant. It is a blow to initiatives aiming to boost component production in Britain to strengthen the industry once the UK leaves the EU customs union.
The US carmaker has said it may close underperforming sites to remain profitable in Europe. Bridgend has poorer efficiency compared to other Ford sites including its UK Dagenham plant, where it makes diesel engines.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday her government would hold regular talks with Ford to ensure its Welsh engine plant remains part of the UK car industry's success post-Brexit. Although the carmaker has said that decision had ‘nothing to do with Brexit’, McCluskey rebuts: ‘Brexit is clearly a factor here.’
JLR said on Wednesday it welcomes calls for government assistance to encourage more car-parts production in Britain, such as the £100 million (€117 million) recommended by Nissan. JLR CEO Ralf Speth said: ‘The closer the supply chain, the more beneficial it would be.’
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