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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Ford to cut more jobs
The Dagenham plant has long been under threat
Car giant Ford is expected to announce plans on Friday to shed about 2,000 jobs at its biggest UK plant in Dagenham.

The plant, which makes the Ford Fiesta, employs about 8,000 workers. Its future has been in doubt for some time.

Ford said earlier this year it was cutting 1,300 jobs at the plant.

Car assembly is expected to be phased out by the end of next year, with the plant focusing on engine production and other manufacturing work.

The company is expected to recruit an extra 200 workers at its diesel engine plant at the site in an attempt to reduce the impact of the announcement.

Ford declined to comment on the job cuts.

Friday meeting

"We can confirm there is a meeting arranged between unions and the company on Friday. However, we can give no further details at this stage," a spokesman said.

But a former vice-president of Ford Europe shared the view that the American auto giant would shut its assembly plant at Dagenham.

Karl Ludvigsen said Ford was having a difficult time in Europe, with dwindling profits.

"Ford wants to cease production at one of its five assembly plants and I think the Dagenham plant is probably the one they are looking at," Mr Ludvigsen said.

In the Commons, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the government would do all it could regarding the outcome of Friday's announcement.

He said: "We will, of course, do all we can to protect those jobs that can be protected.

"We will be there ready to help with money, investment, help and advice for anyone that does lose their job."

Union officials declined to comment on the job cuts before Friday's official announcement, saying they were waiting for details from the company.

Commitment contradiction

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said that Ford would "have broken the commitment they made to us guaranteeing car production at Dagenham".

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said the loss of up to 2,000 jobs at Dagenham would be a "body blow" to one of the poorest districts in the London area.

"We believe that the decision to end volume car production at Dagenham, and thereby in the UK, would not constitute good corporate citizenship by Ford, and, therefore, be in contradiction with their previous long commitment to the United Kingdom," he said.

"It would be naive to assume there would not be any sort of public reaction," said Mr Livingstone.

Livingstone consultations

He said his immediate goal was to consult the Department of Trade and Industry over its reaction to the anticipated announcement to "ensure a co-ordinated response".

Mr Livingstone met Trade Secretary Stephen Byers on Monday to discuss the situation.

Ford, which employs 26,000 people in the UK, is reportedly planning to offer voluntary redundancies at its other UK plants to avoid compulsory lay-offs.

There are suggestions that workers will be offered redundancy payments of up to 40,000.

Ford has been mulling potential cutbacks in its European operations for several weeks to cut overcapacity.

The end of car production at the Dagenham plant would come as a major blow to the UK car industry in the wake of Rover's rescue by the Phoenix consortium.

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See also:

10 May 00 | Business
Rover looks to future
24 Apr 00 | Business
Unions pledge fight for Ford
18 Feb 00 | Business
Ford slashes 1,500 UK jobs
03 Feb 00 | Business
Ford's European troubles
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