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2000: Ford quits Dagenham after 70 years

VIDEO : Ford workers face up to redundancy

Ford has confirmed that car production at its Dagenham plant in Essex is to end after more than 70 years.

In total, it will mean the loss of around 3,000 jobs with car assembly at the plant ceasing within two years.

Ford unions reacted angrily to the news. They say the real number of redundancies is closer to 5,000 because Ford's numbers do not include job losses among caterers, cleaners and suppliers.


"I'm sickened"

Dagenham worker

Two years ago Ford had promised to give Dagenham the contract for the new Ford Fiesta. That now goes to Germany and Spain.

"We're extremely angry. There is no justification for the 3,000 job losses and the closure of this assembly plant," said Tony Woodley of the Transport Workers' Union.

"My view is simply this. To be in the car manufacturing industry, quite simply, you've got to make cars."

Outside the factory, union members made their feelings plain. "I'm sickened to tell you the truth," said one Dagenham worker. "I've been working here 23 years. I'm not old enough to take a pension or leave. I'm just sickened."

Ford's European operations have been struggling recently, hit by falling car sales and intense competition.

The company has the capacity to produce 2.25m cars in its European factories, but sold only 1.65m during the past year.

The decisive factor in moving production from Dagenham to its German factory in Cologne was that facilities there were more flexible, with a second assembly line, enabling Ford to switch to other models quickly.

The company tried to soften the blow by saying the losses would be offset by investment in diesel manufacturing at the plant.

Nick Scheele, chairman of Ford Europe, said Dagenham would become Ford's "global centre" for the production of diesel engines, creating 500 jobs over four years.

In Context
In October Ford's chief executive, Jacques Nasser, was forced out of the company as Ford Europe continued to make a loss of around 700m ($1bn) a year.

The Ford family took back the helm and William Clay Ford Jr, the new chief executive, launched a major restructuring of the company in the hope of bringing it out of the red.

But two years later Ford sales were still lower than hoped for and it sold off UK car repair firm Kwik-Fit at a loss.

For more than 70 years, the Dagenham plant, one of Europe's first major car assembly sites, was regarded as a focal point of the UK car industry.

So it was a sad day when the last Ford Fiesta rolled off the production line in February 2002 and the factory was downsized to produce engines and gearboxes.


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