No Phoenix, not even an Alchemy

A sign appeared on the railings of a high balcony at Ford's Dagenham assembly plant yesterday - "To Let. £10 o.n.o."

That was a bitter reference to the official fee paid by the Phoenix consortium for rival car company Rover. For Ford workers in Essex there is no rescue team on the way, no escape from a management for which they expressed deep distrust.

Peter Singh, a shop steward, said people felt betrayed. "They were told they had a futurehere but it doesn't look likethey have.

"There was an agreement made in 1997 by [Ford chief executive] Jac Nasser and he has not honoured that agreement. He said we would have the next generation Fiesta but that's not going to happen."

On retraining promises by Ford and the Government, Mr Singh said: "What are they going to train us for, to sweep the floor? There are no jobs around here.

"This is the death of the community as far as we are concerned. People are bewildered at what has happened. There is a hostile environment and a lot of people don't know what is going to happen."

The sombre mood of employees going to work yesterday morning turned to anger later when the details of Ford's decision were revealed. News of the new investment in the engine factory predictably did little to cheer those who worked in the assembly plant

Paul Tumner, 35, from Dagenham, said he did not know whether he had a future at the company. "Everything Ford says they end up going back on. They guaranteed us a future at Dagenham and they shouldn't be allowed to go back on it. Britain is a soft touch. This wouldn't happen in Europe.

"I've been here five years and I'm quite young so I might get other work but a lot of people here aren't in that position."

Steve Johnston, 43, said he was being offered £37,000 for 23 years' service. "I've got a mortgage, a wife and three children. I just don't know what I can do.

"There's no jobs around here and I don't know if I will leave the area. They may offer me a job in Southampton but at the moment I don't believe what Ford say.

"What annoys me is the unions don't seem to be bothered and the Government don't seem to be bothered either.

"I'd like to know why it was Dagenham and not one of the other European plants that's had to suffer these cuts. We are cheaper workforce than them."

Clutching the letter he received from management, Mr Johnston said: "This doesn't answer my question, 'Why Dagenham?'"

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