A former Unite shop steward who was employed at Ford’s Eastleigh depot has criticised the company’s announcement to switch production of the Transit van from Swaythling to Turkey and has called on the government to review it trading agreements with countries outside the EU.
Bill Chandler, 59, spent 32 years working for Ford at Barton Park, Swaythling and Dagenham before becoming too ill to work in 2006.
The unite member still takes an active interest in the plant and was outside its gates on Thursday to show support for his former workmates on the day of the ’big announcement’.
Speaking to Eastleigh News from his Romsey home Mr Chandler said he thought that the closure of the Southampton plant showed that the government needed to review its trade agreements with countries that are outside the EU.
“ I want the government to look at these special trading arrangements which allow corporations like Ford to close factories here and rebuild them cheaply outside the EU and then export the goods back into the EU again”
He also said he was dismayed the company had failed to honour pledges made in 2009 when it halved production at the plant and let 500 staff go, sending their jobs to Turkey, while promising that Southampton would be chosen to build the next generation Transit chassis cabs in 2013.
Two years ago Mr Chandler traveled to Turkey to see the Ford plant there for himself and to meet with workers and union reps as part of a BBC Radio Solent investigation into the background reasons for Ford’s decision to offshore Transit production.
During the programme a 52 year-old Ford worker from Eastleigh who was made redundant in 2009 described the Southampton Ford plant as ‘on death row’ and the chassis cab plan as a ‘red herring’.
“I’m not totally convinced the chassis cab plan is viable- I hope it is -but I’m very sceptical about its prospects of success
“The sort of quantities they are talking about will just make it (the plant) unviable -they certainly have the capacity at Turkey to take that production over.
“I just wonder if it s just a red herring to distract the workers from what is really in store for them”
On Thursday Ford workers had told Eastleigh News that no attempt had been made by Ford to commence installing new tooling for the chassis cabs, the production of which was due to begin in just seven months time.
Not all the research for the BBC programme was broadcast – for example the amounts of money that was being siphoned from British Taxpayers via the EU to spend on developing Turkish industry to enable it to ‘compete’ with EU member states – money that went towards building factories and infrastructure for large corporations like Ford.
It was also discovered that the then Head of Ford’s European operation John Fleming – who decided to switch production form Southampton to Turkey – was (and still is) also a director of the Turkish company, Otosan, which builds Transits there for Ford under licence.
You can listen to Redundant South: Where did my Job go? Here