Car manufacturer Ford announced plans yesterday to close two UK plants with the loss of 1,400 jobs.
Its Transit van factory in Southampton will close, as will the stamping plant in Dagenham, east London, with union sources saying job losses could reach 2,000.
The announcement followed days of speculation about Ford’s plans for the Southampton site, after the company called an extraordinary meeting of union officials on Wednesday morning.
The general secretary of the union Unite, Len McCluskey, said the announcement by Ford had been handled ‘disgracefully’.
Press Association industrial editor Alan Jones told PRWeek that the media handling ‘generated two days of bad news instead of one’.
‘The company gave details on Wednesday of a plant closure in Belgium and said more information of its plans would be unveiled on Thursday,’ said Jones. ‘This led to what turned out to be well-informed speculation that the Transit van site in Southampton would shut, which must have been desperately worrying for the workers.
‘Unions have long complained that workers often hear that they are losing their jobs from media reports before being told by their management, and this was another classic case.’
Another industry observer who declined to be named added: ‘Once the horse bolted earlier in their week, Ford decided to keep the door shut. I doubt a comms adviser would have agreed to that.’
However, Ford media team product manager Oliver Rowe defended the media handling around the announcement, telling PRWeek: ‘When you have got employee representatives, it’s absolutely right that they should be briefed first. People read a lot into the invitations going out and in the time before Ford can talk officially to the media, you’ve got a space when the media will choose to report on the unofficial news.’
Rowe added: ‘You do have a limbo period, but also a complex and extensive rollout plan.' He added that the extra dimension of social media made it harder for such announcements to be held back.
Ford’s media announcement was timed to coincide with the opening of the Wall Street Stock Exchange yesterday. Following Ford’s official announcement to the media, it embarked on conference calls for analysts and the media.