Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Ford workers stage jobs protest

Ford demo
About 60 Ford workers staged a rally at the civic centre

A meeting between Ford factory staff facing job losses and a city council in Hampshire was suspended after workers staged a rally on civic premises.

Union members were due to meet with the Southampton City Council to discuss job cuts at Ford's Swaythling plant.

But the meeting was cancelled by the council which disagreed with the 60-strong rally on Wednesday morning.

The factory has already implemented a four-day week due to "softening market conditions".

Ford plans to halve production of the Transit van at the site over the next three years.

Councillor Royston Smith, the council's cabinet member for economic development, admitted that both the council and the union were agreed on retaining jobs at the Ford plant, but the council would "not meet [with them] when they are protesting on the premises".

We've not come to protest at the council we've come to support our representatives
Ford worker Stephen Slominski

He told BBC Radio Solent: "Ford jobs are very important to the Southampton economy, but it's being turned into a political issue, the Socialist Workers Party are campaigning against the Conservative-run council."

Stephen Slominski, a production worker at Ford and Unite union member, said: "It's an issue that has got cross-party support.

"We've not come to protest at the council we've come to support our representatives.

"People might underestimate the impact that losing Ford will have on the local economy, we've got 31m going into the local economy in terms of wages.

"There has been an exodus of high-skilled manufacturing from Southampton, it's almost as if the working class is becoming the serving class."

The factory employs 1,100 people.

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