Ford cuts could mean 6,000 job losses in the south east

London’s manufacturing base will be badly hit if Ford ends car production at Dagenham, according to industry experts.

Up to 3,000 jobs out of a total workforce of 8,000 are expected to be cut at the east London plant as a result of Ford’s plans to move production of the Fiesta overseas.

The company announced 1,350 redundancies at Dagenham in January following losses in Europe and global over-capacity throughout the car industry.

David Wyatt, vice-chairman of the North London Manufacturers Action Group, said the end of car production at Dagenham would have a severe knock-on effect on small engineering firms throughout the east Thames corridor. Job losses could reach 6,000 if suppliers were included, he warned. He added that there were concerns about the impact on Visteon, Ford’s components supplier, which has a plant in Enfield, north London.

Also in doubt is the proposed supplier park due to be established around Ford’s Dagenham plant, as companies are likely to be reluctant to move closer to the site if assembly line car manufacturing is to be scrapped.

Jerry Jackson, executive member of the London Manufacturing Group, said closure would severely affect the supply chain. `The manufacturing sector in London will shrink if Dagenham closes,’ he said.

The most recent figures from the LMG show that manufacturing contributed 40% to the GDP of Barking and Dagenham in 1997, compared with a national average of around 20%.

A spokesman for the London Chamber of Commerce said the move would be bad news for London and south-east England: `It will have a very damaging effect on local suppliers, and won’t help unemployment in the area, which is already at one of the highest rates in London.’

He added that the big task for London’s new mayor would be to improve transport infrastructure in the capital, making it easier for people to travel to areas with more jobs. Particularly needed would be the shelved, multi-billion pound Crossrail project linking Liverpool Street and Paddington, which would connect Essex and east London to the west of London, where companies are suffering from a shortage of skilled manufacturing workers.

Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone condemned Ford’s reported decision and blamed UK employment laws.

`There can be no justification for ending car production at Dagenham – it was Ford’s most productive plant last year,’ Livingstone said. `Unfortunately, it is still easier to make workers redundant in Britain than in the rest of Europe,’ he added.

Ford is conducting a review of all its European operations. The company said a decision would be formally announced in mid-May.

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