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Ford locks out media on October 7

Oct 7 looms: Ford is planning to mark its final day of local manufacturing tactfully and with the most directly affected personnel as the focus of the day.

Final day of production all about honour, dignity and the people says Ford

15 Jul 2016

FORD’S final day of Australian car manufacturing is less than three months away and the car-maker is preparing for the milestone date of October 7, but as the last Blue Oval badge rolls off the Broadmeadows line, the company says its focus will be exclusively on the impacted people.

While Ford is planning to keep key stakeholders in the loop prior to and after the closure of both Geelong engine and Broadmeadows assembly facilities, only the people directly impacted will be front and centre for Ford.

Speaking at the launch of the Focus RS, Ford Australia and CEO Graeme Whickman said the company was planning to mark the day sensitively with a number of intimate staff events, only for those who would not be coming back the following Monday.

“We’ve got a series of private events and they are only with the directly affected employees and we are going to have those events over the two sites,” he said. “It won’t involve dealers or other employees. We are going to honour them like we said we were going to.” Mr Whickman acknowledged the interest and importance of media coverage of the day but explained that his and the company’s first priority was looking after approximately 1500 staff that would be out of a job.

“There are a lot of different stake holders and some of those stake holders, including the media, and employees that aren’t affected, will be handled separate to those private events.

“The reason is very simple: we’ve said from the outset that there are people directly affected and we are going to do this with dignity and respect. They are not going to be sitting there as objects for people to take photos of.” About a month before production ends, Ford will wind up its long standing factory tours as a further mark of respect for its employees.

“Similarly we are going to stop plant tours,” said Mr Whickman. “From about September onwards we’re just not going to do them anymore.

“Put yourself in their shoes. You’re trying to work and you’ve got people around you with some sort of curiosity that isn’t necessarily healthy and that’ s not fair. We’re not putting our employees in a glass bowl.

“When it comes to the press, we are putting you in the same boat. We are not going to have you in on the last day. We have a bigger priority, frankly, managing the men and women affected on the day.” As with any final model, the last Falcon and Territory to be screwed together in Melbourne’s north will be of special significance to both Ford and its fans alike, but Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood said celebrating the last models would be separated from the more sombre day.

“There will be a lot of people who want to say goodbye to Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory and so that will be part of it,” he said. “The vehicles will not go into hiding. The final models will be accessible for people over time.

“We think that is a big part of it but the biggest part is the people and how we look after their futures.” Since the announcement in 2013 that the car-maker would pull up stumps, some reports have speculated that Ford would turn out the lights earlier than the original end date, but Mr Whickman said the reputation of the company depended on the way it manages the critical production shutdown.

“Regardless of the drop in the volumes we said we were going to go for a period of time and we set ourselves out to do that. We knew there were some pros and cons to that but we certainly want to do it in the proper way and we will honour those commitments.” Last week, fellow local car-maker Holden made the late announcement that it would pull the plug on Cruze production on the same day that Ford ceases all manufacturing.

The move appears to be an effort to distract the attention of the media and public eye from the first stages of its own path to closing down local manufacturing next year, but Mr Whickman would not reveal his opinions on the matter.

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