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Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Friday, 2 April 2010 15:11 UK
Ex-Ford worker tracks Southampton's lost Transit jobs

By Matt Treacy
BBC Radio Solent reporter

Bill Chandler
Bill Chandler visited the Ford factory in Kocaeli, Turkey

I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for Bill to stare at those entrance gates.

On the surface they were innocent enough; a few security guards, lorries and cars coming and going. But they represented every fear workers back in Southampton had.

We had travelled over 1,600 miles across Europe, to find out if work from the Ford Factory in Swaythling was destined to end up in this new Turkish assembly plant.

Bill Chandler, a former Ford worker with 32 years experience, had travelled with me.

He explained: "This is a big worry. A big concern for all of us."

Bill had retired form Ford in Southampton in 2008 due to ill health, but he never expected so many of his friends and colleagues would be joining him on a pension so soon.

After months of extended shutdowns and rumour, Ford axed about 500 jobs - half of its workforce - and scaled back production of its Transit van at the factory in Southampton.

All the redundancies were voluntary, but many wondered how long such a small plant could survive, especially when a rival Turkish factory was now building the same product and in a few short years had grown into a major production force.

Nearly eight times bigger, with its own docks stretching into the Sea of Marmara, and opened in 2001 it becomes clear that this commercial vehicle assembly plant could do everything Southampton could do - but on a much bigger scale.

Turkish workers

The differences became even more obvious when we met up with one of the Turkish workers.

Transits
Ford's Kocaeli plant in Turkey currently makes 700 Transits a day

Müzeyyen Can and her husband both work at the Ford factory in Turkey.

She said: "Me and my husband together earn 2,500 lira (£537-a-month each) . It is a very good income for working in Turkey, the minimum wage is 600 lira (£258-a-month)."

Müzeyyen survived an earthquake in this region in 1999 which delayed the building of the Turkish plant.

Bill remembers at the time Southampton workers were pleased at the thought of this major rival suffering a set-back.

However, he admitted: "… now I was sat on the sofa of one of the victims. I felt ashamed …and embarrassed to accept her generous hospitality."

Unemployment in Turkey is up to 14%, and nearly one in five of the population live below the poverty line.

Work in Ford in Turkey is highly sought after as the car giant pays a good wage for the type of work and includes benefits too. Many of the Turkish Ford workers belong to the local union and everybody we met was proud of their job.

It shed a different light on what 'jobs going abroad' actually meant. When you take away the pay-gap, there were less differences than we were expecting.

For badge
Ford began producing Transit Vans in Southampton in 19

Ford in Southampton is planning to move production of the Transit panel van to Turkey, but that shift has been delayed until at least 2012 due to the global economic crisis. The plan would then involve the Southampton plant staying open and making a chassis cab model.

"Home of the Transit"

But there are those that feel this new model won't be a 'traditional van'. "It is very sad," Bill's local MP Sandra Gidley told us.

"Southampton has billed itself in the past as the home of the transit. The home of the transit chassis doesn't have quite the same ring."

But it is not just British workers who fear jobs being moved abroad.

Ayhan Zeytinoglu is the chairman of the Kocaeli chamber of industry, of which Ford Ottosan is a member. He warns that, "In India and China, wages are way below ours… so this type of production eventually will go somewhere else. It's likes water running to the sea."

So, in just the same way that workers in the UK fear that jobs will go to Turkey, they in turn fear the pull of rival countries taking work further East.

Maybe one day in the future there will be another trip, but this time it will be a Turkish worker travelling to China, asking where his job went?

Listen to BBC Radio Solent's Redundant South - Where's my job gone? on BBC iPlayer.




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