Unions fear Ford will close another Jaguar plant

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Union leaders voiced fears last night that Ford may close another of Jaguar's car plants in order to appease investors in the United States.

Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said that Ford's plan to produce 130,000 Jaguars a year would only require one plant. Ford has announced the closure of Jaguar's Browns Lane factory in Coventry but Mr Woodley believes the Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham or the Halewood facility on Merseyside could also be vulnerable.

The union chief's comments followed a private meeting on Monday between Mr Woodley, the general secretary of Amicus Derek Simpson and Mark Fields, the chairman of Ford of Europe and also Ford's Premier Automotive Group, which includes Jaguar and Land Rover.

Mr Woodley accused the Ford boss of reneging on earlier pledges to try to bring production of new models to the UK. He said union officials had been told during wage negotiations last month that Ford was hoping to locate production of a new Volvo sports utility vehicle in the UK but on Monday night Mr Fields denied the existence of such a car.

The unions, who ballot Jaguar workers on Tuesday over strike action, are angry that Ford has refused to give them a breakdown of the £80m cost savings it claims will be made from closing Browns Lane.

A spokesman for Jaguar said Mr Woodley's claims were "speculation, hearsay and scaremongering".