Ford’s Bridgend engine plant could reduce its workforce in four years' time as a result of plans to shrink its production output from 2021.
The south Wales facility was due to receive £181 million of investment last year but that was reduced to £100m due to a changing market. Supply for the four-cylinder Ecoboost engine produced at Bridgend is expected to fall, partly because of the predicted growth in demand for the three-pot Ecoboost unit that will be used in models such as the 2018 Fiesta ST.
Ford said these changes in supply mean that it's uncertain of output levels for the site from 2021. It also said Bridgend's workload is likely to reduce with the introduction of a new engine range called Dragon.
In an official statement, the car maker said: “We have shared the five-year outlook with our union partners, based on what we know today. This shows healthy volumes to occupy the current workforce over the next two to three years. Beyond that, identified workload is reduced and whilst such a forecast is not unusual, given the cyclical nature of our business, it is a concern, and we fully understand that.”
The UK’s Unite workers' union has responded by saying it will use “all its might” to fight for the future of Bridgend’s 1980 workers. It warns that job losses could reach 1100 if action is not taken to ensure output remains strong at the site, claiming the current output of 511,000 engines a year would reduce to 125,000 with the introduction of Dragon.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Ford workers at Bridgend have every right to feel angry over the company’s behaviour. This loyal workforce and their union have been kept in the dark over recent months. But the focus now has to be saving these jobs.”
Ford has formed a working partnership with the Unite and GMB unions to identify future business opportunities for Bridgend. The car maker said: “It goes without saying that, in order to attract new business, the Bridgend operation would need to ensure its competitiveness, and addressing some of the current concerns relating to the plant’s efficiency would be high on the agenda.”
Unite labelled Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as a push factor for Ford’s decision. McCluskey said: “I appeal again to the Westminster government and Theresa May to make it categorically clear without delay that there will be tariff-free access to the single market and customs union.
“The uncertainty the UK’s automotive sector is enduring is having damaging real-life consequences now, before talks have even begun.”