Welsh Government launches taskforce to help Ford Bridgend workers amid ‘biggest economic blow’ to South Wales since coal mine closures

Welsh Government launches taskforce to help Ford Bridgend workers amid ‘biggest economic blow’ to South Wales since coal mine closures
Welsh Government launches taskforce to help Ford Bridgend workers amid ‘biggest economic blow’ to South Wales since coal mine closures

The Welsh Government is to set up a taskforce to help thousands of car workers find jobs after Ford announced it will shut its Bridgend factory – leaving families facing their biggest financial worries since the closure of the south Wales coal mines.

Ford said its 40-year-old engines plant, which employs 1,700 people and supports thousands of other jobs in the supply chain, will close in September next year , with CBI Wales director Ian Price saying it was a “blow to the lives of all who work there” and to the Welsh economy.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “This news is incredibly sad for the loyal workforce at the factory, for the community of Bridgend and for those in the supply chain.

”The Welsh Government has supported the plant over many years, and this decision in no way reflects on the highly skilled individuals who have given the company great service over four decades.

“We will do everything in our power to support those impacted by this announcement and to work with all partners to explore options for the future of the plant.”

The firm, which denied the decision was related to Brexit and blamed the ending of a contract with Jaguar Land Rover and a fall in sales of petrol engines, has come under attack from unions who pledged to resist the closure “with all their might”.

Around 1,700 jobs are at risk at Ford Bridgend. (Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Industrial vandalism’

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the plant was “one of the greatest and most iconic plants” in UK manufacturing and was a “hallmark” of the Welsh industrial landscape.

But he said: “The decision to close the plant is one of the worst acts of industrial vandalism seen in the UK for decades and will have a devastating impact on Bridgend, the wider Welsh economy and over 1,70 workers and their families.”

Workers were told the news and an a briefing at the plant before being told to go home until Monday.

Richard Young, the former mayor of Bridgend, said: “Make no mistake, this is the single biggest blow to our economy since the closure of the pits in the early 1980s.

”That was the same period during which Bridgend Ford came to prominence and it has played a crucial role in the county borough ever since.“

He said the council would do all it could to support the community, but added: ”If this closure goes ahead, we are going to need significant investment to offset some of the huge impact this will have on the local economy and the community as a whole.“

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Ford’s decision to shut its Bridgend engine plant in 2020 is a grotesque act of economic betrayal.

”These workers and this community have stayed faithful to Ford, as have UK customers – this is still Ford’s largest European market – through thick and thin, but have been treated disgracefully in return by this company.“

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the announcement was a ”crushing blow“ for UK car manufacturing as well as for families in Bridgend.

He said: ”Ford’s challenges are not unique: economic certainty at home and abroad, technological change and global trade issues are setressing markets and forcing companies to review operations and make difficult decisions.“

But he said ”success in this fiercely competitive global industry starts at home“ and he hoped all efforts would be made to ensure the industry’s long-term competitiveness.

The Ford Bridgend engine plant is set to close next year. (Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Difficult decisions’

Ford’s European president Stuart Rowley said: ”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.“

The Bridgend site opened in 1980 and covers an area of 60 acres. It is one of Wales’s major employers. The closure plan marks another huge blow for the UK car industry which has seen a downturn in production.

Alun Cairns, the Secretary of State for Wales, said: ”I fully recognise that this an extremely worrying and uncertain time for Ford workers, their families in Bridgend and the surrounding communities.

“The UK government will work closely with Ford, the trade unions and the Welsh government, to make sure this highly-valued workforce can move into new skilled employment.”