Workers leave Bridgend Ford factory for final time as production stops for good after 40 years

Watch ITV Wales journalist, Richard Morgan's report on the closure of Bridgend's Ford factory

The Ford plant in Bridgend will closes its gates for the final time after 40 years of operation on Friday.

There are 1,644 staff employed at the site, most of whom have opted for retraining, while 120 will remain on-site for a few months longer to help with the decommissioning.

Ford confirmed last year that it planned to close the plant in Bridgend in September.

One man who spoke to ITV Wales and has worked at the factory for nine years said he was going to "take a chance now" with self-employment but a lot of others "don't even know what they're going to do after this".

Glenn Loosemore added that the fact that people are dealing with coronavirus at the same time only makes matters more difficult for the factory's, now former, workers.

Peter Hughes, Unite Wales Secretary said it's a "dark day" for workers in Wales.

"Today is a desperately sad day for all the Welsh workers whose employment with Ford officially ends today," he said.

"It is also a dark day for the many thousands of others who also worked at this iconic manufacturing facility over the past 40 years."

He added: "Ford Bridgend was able to hold its own against other Ford sites across the world throughout those four decades for one reason only, its world-class workforce."

"Nothing has changed in this respect in recent years. Every one of the workers who are finishing their time with Ford today retain their status as a world-class manufacturing worker. What did and has changed is Fords commitment to Wales and the UK."

The plant's closure has been described as a "sad day" by one union. Credit: PA

The Economy Minister said the impact of Ford leaving Bridgend will be felt "throughout the local economy and community for a long time to come."

Ken Skates MS said: Whilst I recognise the challenges to the automotive industry presented by technological and legislative changes of late, nonetheless, there is no doubt that Ford’s decision came as a devastating blow for its workforce, Bridgend and the wider regional economy and it is one I remain deeply disappointed by."

One worker left their boots in the car park as they left the factory for the final time. Credit: ITV Wales
INEOS scrapped plans to build a new factory in Bridgend. Credit: INEOS

Earlier this year, INEOS Automotive announced it scrapped its plan to build a car plant in Bridgend, where production of a new 4x4 vehicle named Grenadier was due to begin next year.

Around 200 jobs were due to be created by the chemicals giant initially, but that was expected to increase to 500 once the vehicle reached full production.

The news was described as a "glimmer of hope" for Bridgend as the factory was due to be built next to the Ford plant.

Mr Skates said this was a "further blow to the area and another bitter disappointment" but confirmed there had been a "number of new enquiries" for the site.

"We will continue to do all we can to support those workers seeking new employmentthrough our “Wales in Work” initiative in collaboration with a network of localstakeholders, such as Bridgend Council, Careers Wales and Jobcentre Plus, providinga range of practical advice and support," he added.

Ford has established a £1m community legacy fund, to which employee-nominated charities and community organisations can apply.

It has also established a £2m research and development fund to be targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises and academic projects.