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UK unions say Ford to ax 1,100 jobs at Welsh engine plant

A Ford logo is pictured at a car dealership in Monterrey, Mexico, November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

LONDON (Reuters) - Ford (F.N) plans to ax 1,100 jobs at its engine plant in Wales, trade unions said on Wednesday, although the U.S. carmaker said there were no immediate plans for cuts nor had it confirmed any future losses.

Ford, the biggest maker of automotive engines in Britain, said last year it was scaling back investment due to lower than anticipated demand for one of its petrol engines but was not planning significant cuts.

However, the GMB and Unite unions said company bosses had confirmed in meetings on Wednesday that about 1,100 jobs would be lost over a five-year period, leaving a workforce of just 600 remaining on the Welsh site at Bridgend.

"The nightmare for our members at Bridgend has unfortunately come true," said Jeff Beck of the GMB. "This is a real kick in the teeth for our hard-working members at the Ford plant – as well as their families and the community as a whole."

Both unions said they would consult with their members and did not rule out strike action.

However, Ford, which made around a third of Britain's total output of 2.4 million engines at Bridgend in 2015, disputed the unions' statement.

"That's not correct. We're not in a position to confirm any job losses. We're certainly several years away from that," a Ford spokeswoman said. "We're proposing a joint working party with the Unite and GMB to identify future business needs.

"Demand is healthy and occupies the current workforce for the next two to three years. Beyond that we do see reduction in the forecasts, hence that's why we announced back in September that we are reducing the initial investment."

Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey called on the British government to intervene, and Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier on Wednesday that ministers would hold regular talks with Ford to make sure they could maintain the car producer's "success" in Britain after leaving the European Union.

"Ministers in this government have been engaging with various companies within the automotive sector, including Ford," May told parliament.

"We have had dialogue with Ford, we will continue to have a regular dialogue with Ford about the ways in which government can help to make sure that this success continues."

On Tuesday, Japanese carmaker Nissan <7201.T> said May's government had to come up "with a lot of different solutions" to ensure that Britain's automotive industry would remain competitive after the country left the EU.

It has said it would re-examine its investment strategy once the terms of Brexit become clear.

(Reporting by Michael Holden and Costas Pitas in London; additional reporting by Andreas Cremer in Berlin; editing by Keith Weir and Susan Fenton)