Goodyear closure: Emotional goodbyes for staff leaving site for the final time - WATCH

Tyre workers bid a tearful farewell to the factory where some had worked for almost four decades.

Goodyear closure: Emotional goodbyes for staff leaving site for the final time - WATCH

Men who finished the last ever shift yesterday at the Goodyear plant in Bushbury Lane, Wolverhampton, spoke of their sadness.

Many workers were too upset to talk after their farewell shifts, as cars streamed out in their masses from the plant at 1pm.

But some shared their heartbreak at the closure, as well as precious memories of the cameraderie with colleagues after decades of hard work.

Shift manager Ian Charles, aged 55, of Wednesfield, who started a Goodyear 29 years ago, said: "It was an emotional last day.

"They've been a fantastic team of guys to work with and there were tears from some.

"One of the men had worked there for 46 years.

"But it's been coming for a while. It's been death by a thousand cuts."

Some Goodyear staff were too emotional to speak as they left

Balwinder Rai, 57, who has worked at the plant since he was 19, and his father Gurdev Rai, 81, were one of the many father and son teams who worked at the depot.

Gurdev was at the gates of the site to wave goodbye to the 25 remaining workers as they drove off for the last time.

His son, who lives in Tettenhall, said: "It was a heartbreaking shift.

"We did everything the Europeans wanted but in the end it wasn't enough. It's a great shame."

Father-of-three Carlos Victor, 53, plans to return to his home country of Portugal after 29 years at Goodyear.

He came to work in the city after marrying a Wolverhampton girl.

"That's life," he said. "We've been preparing for this day for a long time.

"Now it's come I don't see any reason to stay here."

One of the workers, who gave his name only as Neil, said despite the sadness of the occasion, a sense of humour was retained.

He said one of his colleagues played The Last Post on his mobile phone as the shift prepared to pack up.

Last Friday a total of 283 workers bid goodbye to Goodyear.

Now 37 people brought in especially to manage the closure of the plant will remain to carry out the task until June.

The factory opened in 1927 and at its peak covered 88 acres. It also employed more than 7,000 staff and made tyres for cars, trucks, tractors and even Formula 1 racing teams.

The first tyres were manufactured in December that year.

After making one million tyres in its first 18 months, the company switched to war production in 1939.

Factory employees worked 20 days on and just one day off.

Its aircraft tyres were five-feet tall, two-feet wide and weighed 355 pounds.

In 1986 the town was shocked by the news that 90 shop floor jobs would go at Goodyear.

This was on top of 40 that had already been announced.

The Ohio-based company had fought off a £3.7 billion takeover bid.

But it had required them to shell out to purchase 11.5 per cent worth of shares held by Sir James Goldsmith's group of investors.

Production has come to an end at the tyre plant

Next came the closure of a subsidiary company, Howdins, with a base in Sutton Coldfield.

More job cuts were to follow, with 550 axed in 1997 and staff numbers whittled down to 2,500 by 2000.

Another 470 found themselves out of a job in 2002 but the following February bosses told union members that Goodyear would remain in the city for the 'foreseeable future', signalling a potential jobs boost.

But the company fell victim to the credit crunch, with a deal done to spend £150 million on safeguarding the now scaled down operation. Demolition work started at the site in 2007, with the idea for hundreds of homes shops and a pub to be built on land the firm was no longer using.

Thousands gathered to witness the end of an era as the iconic blue and yellow Goodyear chimney was pulled down the following year.

In 2012, Goodyear joined forces with fellow Midlands tyre maker Dunlop and was investing £6 million in the site.

But in June last year, Goodyear announced that it would close its premises in the city and would be commencing redundancies.

The first batch of staff who were made redundant left the plant last December.

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