Car giant Ford is to axe around 2,000 jobs at its biggest UK factory but will offer voluntary redundancies at other plants in a bid to avoid compulsory lay-offs, it was learned today.
Car assembly at the huge Dagenham plant in Essex will be phased out by the end of next year, leaving the site reliant in engine production and other manufacturing work.
The company is expected to recruit an extra 200 workers at its diesel engine plant in Dagenham under moves to lessen the impact of the announcement.
Workers at Dagenham where the Fiesta is built, will receive letters on Friday before an official announcement of the cutback.
Ford hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies by seeking volunteers at some of its other UK factories.
Some workers at Dagenham may be able to move to other plants but those who decide to go will be eligible for redundancy payments of up to almost £40,000.
Despite the moves to seek volunteers and create some new jobs, morale at Dagenham is said to be very low following weeks of speculation that car assembly was likely to end.
Some workers have pinned posters to walls reading: "Closing down sale - everything must go."
Some union officials believe there will be enough volunteers to avoid compulsory redundancies, but the ending of car production will still be a huge blow to the industry so soon after the dramatic rescue of Rover.
Ford will meet union officials in private tomorrow evening to spell out the details ahead of Friday's announcement.
A "special payment" of £15,500 will be offered as part of the redundancy package, it is believed.
A 55-year-old worker with 30 years' service could receive around £37,500 while a 52-year-old with 27 years qualifies for £35,700. A 41-year-old with 15 years' service could receive £30,100.
Long serving workers would also receive an annual pension of up to £10,000.
The ending of car production, although widely expected, will still come as a shock to the industry and will affect the Dagenham region which is heavily dependent on the factory for employment.
Ford has been conducting a Europe-wide review of its operations for several weeks and is making the cutbacks because of over-capacity.
The company employs around 26,000 workers in the UK including 8,000 at Dagenham.
Ford announced earlier this year it was axing 1,300 jobs at Dagenham so the plant will left employing just over 4,000 workers after the fresh job losses.
A Ford spokesman said today: "We can confirm there is a meeting arranged between unions and the company on Friday. However we can give no further details at this stage."
The company refused to confirm details of the redundancies or expected job losses ahead of its formal meeting with union leaders on Friday in London.