US automobile company Ford will meet trade union representatives in the UK amid growing fears that its Transit van manufacturing plant in Southampton will be closed.
The company, which has struggled to cope with the eurozone debt crisis, recently announced plans to shut its Belgian plant, laying off 4,300 employees.
Speculation has suggested that Ford might announce plans to also close the Southampton factory, which employs 500 people, at the trade union meeting. The carmaker has refused to confirm or deny the reports.
Unite, the trade union which represents about 7,500 of Ford's staff, also said that the company has not given any indications on the reasons for the meeting.
"This is a very worrying time for the UK workforce. Unite is currently working hard alongside its European colleagues to get clarity about Ford's plans," said the union's assistant general secretary, Tony Burke.
Ford has confirmed that it plans to restructure its European business. The company's European operations head Stephen Odell said after the Belgian plant closure announcement that "the proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford's business in Europe and to return to profitable growth".
The last time Ford called an all-trade union meeting in 2007 was to announce plans to shut its Leamington foundry site, which resulted in 450 redundancies, according to the Guardian.
Fears of the closure have been underscored by Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, who told the BBC that she has "always had concerns for the future of the factory and it now looks like there will be an announcement tomorrow indicating that it's going to close.
"Most of the UK motor manufacturing sector is doing well but unfortunately there's a history of falling sales of Transit vans, I think we've got to do all we can to get these 500 people other jobs within the city."
The company has around 11,400 workers in the UK spread out in Dagenham, Halewood, Bridgend and Southampton. Transit vans have been manufactured at the Southampton plant since 1972, but the company recently reduced the workforce by half to 500, bringing operations down to a single shift.