Unions hit out at Ford plan to close Wales plant in 2020

London (AFP) –


US automaker Ford will close its engine plant in south Wales next year, threatening more than 1,500 jobs, in a "grotesque act of economic betrayal", British unions said on Thursday.

The plan to close the plant in September 2020 is to be confirmed at a meeting Thursday between company officials and union leaders, according to reports.

An official announcement from Ford was expected later in the day.

"Ford's decision to shut its Bridgend engine plant in 2020 is a grotesque act of economic betrayal," Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said in a statement.

"We will resist this closure with all our might, and call upon the governments at the Welsh Assembly and Westminster to join us to save this plant, and to prevent yet another grave injury to UK manufacturing."

The news is the latest blow to British car-making amid heightened uncertainty over Brexit and as the industry worldwide faces up to huge challenges, including the switch to electric vehicles.

Honda has announced plans to shut its plant in central England in 2021, while fellow Japanese car-maker Nissan reversed a decision to build its new X-Trail vehicle at its facility in the northeast.

Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India's Tata Motors, is also shedding jobs in Britain.

- 'Hugely shocked' -

Ford announced last month that it was cutting 7,000 jobs worldwide -- 10 percent of its global salaried workforce -- as part of a reorganisation plan.

The US auto giant has operated the plant in Bridgend, just west of the Welsh capital Cardiff, for decades and is one of the region's major employers.

The closure would also impact many companies that supply goods and services to the facility.

Workers were being given the news at briefings inside and are then expected to leave for the day.

"We're hugely shocked by today's announcement, it's a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community," Jeff Beck, regional organiser for the GMB union.

"Regardless of today's announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh government to find a solution to the issue and mitigate the effects of this devastating news."

Beck said the news was made worse coming in the same week that US President Donald Trump was in Britain talking up a future post-Brexit trade deal between the two countries.

"When the plant closes, the new line is likely to be produced in Mexico by an American company," the union leader added.

"So much for the special relationship, Mr. Trump."

Ford has another engine plant in Dagenham, southeast England, and a site making transmissions in Liverpool in the northwest.

McCluskey, a key ally of leftist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, blamed both the company and the British government for treating its workers "abysmally".

"They could do so because the fact remains that it is cheaper, easier and quicker to sack our workers than those in our competitor countries," he said.

Carwyn Jones, Welsh Assembly Member for Bridgend and a former leader of the devolved Welsh government, told Britain's Press Association the layoff plan was "very sudden".

"There was no warning about this at all," he said.

"I want to know what's going on... and want to know a reason for the decision."