‘Body blow for area’: Bridgend devastated by Ford factory closure | Business



Workers at Ford’s sprawling Bridgend engine factory expressed anger at their employer and voiced fears for the impact on their local community on Thursday as they absorbed the news that the plant is to close.

Many were tearful as they streamed out of the 60-acre plant in south Wales and prepared to tell loved ones. Some of the 1,700 workers affected by the announcement warned that shutting the site in September 2020 would have a knock-on effect on businesses throughout the area.

Ford worker Craig Wyatt, 42, said he expected outlets of all kinds – from local pubs to coffee shops and takeaway outlets – to be hit.

“The night shift, in particular, used to send out good business for the area. Domino’s Pizza, the local balti shops, the Golden Dragon Chinese takeaway. Orders for about 60 or 70 meals would go out every night. All that will be gone.”

Wyatt added he was going for a pint at a nearby pub to let the news sink in. “I suppose it’s a question of looking for a job immediately. I’ve got a mortgage and two children, aged eight and 10.”

Teresa and Martin Gough

Teresa and Martin Gough said it would take years to produce more jobs in Bridgend. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures

Local residents also expressed fears for the town, which has a population of more than 49,000 people. Retired publicans Teresa Gough, 60, and husband Martin, 57, said the closure was a “body blow for the area. I can’t see how we will recover from this. The number of jobs going is massive. It will take years to produce more like those being lost.”

Workers at a nearby shopping centre expressed concern about the impact on their jobs. A Greggs employee said: “A lot of the Ford people do business here. It’s bound to hit us when the factory is gone.”

Stephen Skwarneski

Stephen Skwarneski has worked at the Ford plant for 30 years. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures

The reaction among plant workers ranged from exasperation at an apparent about-turn by Ford on the plant’s viability, to fears about the impact on younger workers. Veteran Ford worker Stephen Skwarneski, 59, said young families would be affected the most.

He said: “The mood inside was really sombre despite the fact that people knew what was coming. I feel really sorry for the young ones. I’ll be fine. I was due to retire after 30 years in the next 12 months anyway but it’s gutting for the youngsters with families. I feel really gutted for them.”

Engine worker Andrew Lawrence, 44, said the announcement in 2015 that the new Dragon engine would be built at the plant had given staff the impression that their future was secure.

“I think we were led up the garden path. We were told that the plant had a future because of the Dragon engine. It’s a really sad day for everyone.”

Former Wales first minister Carwyn Jones

Former Wales first minister Carwyn Jones said he believed Brexit had played a part in the decision to close the plant. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures

Describing the announcement as “the end of an era”, he said: “I started at the plant straight out of school. It’s the only job l’ve ever had. I thought l would end my career here.”

The former Wales first minister Carwyn Jones, the assembly member for Bridgend, turned up at the plant to offer support to sacked workers. He believes the threat of a no-deal Brexit has played a part in Ford’s decision.

“I think the worry of the impact of a no deal has played its part. It might have made Ford reassess its investment strategy in the UK. That’s the tragedy for the workers. All that is happening in Westminster, the climate it creates, has an outcome for the workers here. My focus now is to keep this plant open if at all possible. I’ll fight for it.”


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